4 Questions About Administering An Estate

Did a loved one recently pass away, and now you are tasked with the job of being the executor of the estate? If so, you likely have a lot of questions about the legal process that needs to happen. Here are a few common questions you may have.

What Are The First Steps?

There are a lot of things that have to be organized after someone passes away. It starts by registering the death and getting the death certificate since that certificate is necessary for many of the legal aspects that need to happen to administer the estate. You should then track down the person's will, which will have directions on how to administer their estate. The will should state who the executor of the estate will be, which will clear up any misconceptions about why you are taking over these tasks.

What Does The Executor Do?

The executor of the estate has several responsibilities. You'll need to start the probate process so that the will can be authenticated. You'll then close any investment and bank accounts that your loved one had. All of their debts and taxes need to be paid, and their personal property will need to be distributed, sold, or disposed of. At the end, the remaining assets of the estate will be distributed to the heirs of the estate.

What Happens If There Isn't A Will?

If a will does not exist, then there are laws in place that explain how a person's estate will be distributed to its heirs. There is a hierarchy based on the relationship to the person that passed away, which prioritizes immediate family. Unfortunately, not having a will opens up the possibility of family members contesting the estate so that they can get the outcome that they are seeking.

Can Probate Be Avoided?

Once a person passes away, the process of administering an estate has been set in motion and cannot be changed. Anybody that uses a will must have the estate go through the probate process to verify that will. There is no way around probate, and it can be time-consuming. The only way to bypass probate is to create a trust, where all of their assets have already been passed on to the trust and there is no longer a legal process that needs to happen. Of course, setting up a trust is more expensive at first, but it can be well worth it for the simplicity of dividing an estate. 

If you have additional questions, contact an estate administration attorney