A loved one died three weeks ago. You are the designated trustee, personal representative, or closest relative. You have notified family, friends, and employers. You have held the funeral or memorial service. You have secured the decedent’s home and possessions. You have looked for or located their estate planning documents, if they had them. Now what do you do?
1. Consult an estate/probate attorney.
Don’t start dividing assets, and don’t give items to various family members. Wait. If you are the designated trustee or personal representative, or you are likely to be appointed as the estate’s administrator, consult an attorney. The attorney will help you determine if the estate will proceed to administration or probate, then guide you through the process and timing of filing court documents, waiting periods, and final estate closing.
In some cases, where the estate is very small, administration may not be necessary at all. But, in most cases, an attorney’s services could save the estate thousands of dollars and help avoid liabilities for the executor or administrator, such as distributing funds improperly.
2. Contact all beneficiaries/heirs.
The personal representative has an obligation to locate beneficiaries/heirs of an estate and inform them of their entitlement according to the will or state statutes. Your attorney will guide you. If needed, heir finders, also known as heir hunters, can help track down beneficiaries.
3. Collect paperwork, provide a list of all assets and debts.
If you have not done so already, gather the decedent’s paperwork, including personal papers (Social Security Card, marriage license, driver’s license, etc.), financial paperwork, insurance policies, bills, etc. From these documents, create a list of assets and debts. You or your attorney will need them for settling accounts, court filings, tax returns, and, at the end, determining disbursements and closing the estate.
4. Check for missing money.
Check the Minnesota Commerce Department website for the decedent’s potential unclaimed property and funds, which may include dormant bank accounts, uncashed checks, unclaimed wages, safe deposit box, insurance claim payments or benefits, stocks, and bonds. Go to: https://mn.gov/commerce/consumers/your-money/find-missing-money/
5. Don’t pay bills until instructed by your attorney.
Make a list of regular bills as a reminder. Note the ones on automatic payment plans and when payments are due. If you are able, check emails and watch the US mail for bills.
a. Utility bills:
iv. Cable TV
vi. Cell phones
viii. Garbage, etc.
b. Rental payments
c. Insurance bills
iii. Life, etc.
d. Property tax bills (if not part of a home mortgage)
6. Email accounts.
Keep all email accounts open for several months, if possible, because important correspondence (like bank statements) might only be accessible through email accounts. You will need to locate the User Name and Password for each account.
7. Follow the court’s instructions.
If the estate is going through probate, follow the court’s (and your attorney’s) instructions. File (or have your attorney) file the required documents promptly. Again, do not jump ahead and sell the house or give away assets before the court allows. Although waiting for the court’s go-ahead can be frustrating, wait. It will save headaches later on.
Do You Need Guidance?
Closing a loved one’s estate can be overwhelming. Let rb LEGAL guide you through the estate- closing process. Call us today at 763-582-1414 to schedule a meeting in person or over the phone. Or, message us directly on our contact page.
Our Golden Valley firm works with clients throughout the Twin Cities metro area. We listen. We care. Let rb LEGAL help you.
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