What Should I Do When a Loved One Passes Away?

It can be extremely difficult to lose a loved one. If you are also tasked with the often complex duties of being an Executor of an Estate, those responsibilities combined with your grief can be overwhelming. To make matters worse, failing to fulfill your role as an Executor properly can cause new family conflicts.

Thankfully, a probate attorney can help you with this process. He or she can ensure that you are meeting your obligations so you can focus on working through your grieving process.

What Does the Executor Do First?

As an Executor or personal representative, you will first take steps to obtain an inventory all of your loved one’s personal property. This includes any physical assets, including things like furniture, artwork, and dishes. It also consists of financial assets like bank accounts, investments, or life insurance proceeds that should go to the Estate.

The Executor will also take care of paying the bills while the estate is being administered. It can be difficult to determine how much should go where, but you can take your time with this process as creditors are generally understanding in this difficult time and there is usually little legal recourse that the creditor can take at this point.

Critical Actions That the Executor Must Take

An attorney will be able to walk you through the steps that an Executor must take after the loss of a loved one. While every case is different, the Executor must generally perform the following duties:

  • File the Will and Petition in the probate court. This will start the probate process and allow you to be appointed as the Executor. Your lawyer will be able to help you with this process.
  • Collect the assets. You will need to explore and retain every asset that your loved one owned, from silverware to stocks. You will usually need to file an inventory of assets with the Court as part of the probate process.
  • Pay bills and taxes. Once you have determined how much the Estate has in assets, you will need to file an estate tax return, if necessary, and pay any outstanding bills through the Estate.
  • Distribute property to heirs. Once you have paid all of the bills, any remaining amount is distributed to the heirs as set out in the Will. You generally need to wait until the period for making claims runs out, which can take up to two years in some circumstances.
  • File an account with the court. The last step in the probate process is to file an accounting with the Court. The Executor should describe all of the assets, what amount was used to pay bills and taxes, and what was distributed to heirs.  

While the probate process may seem straightforward, it can be challenging in a trying time in your life. You don’t have to go through it alone. Legacy Planning Law Group can help. Contact our team today for more information.

Written by Legacy Planning Law Group

Legacy Planning Law Group is dedicated to working with individuals and families to help protect the assets they have built throughout their life, and make everything simpler for families who have lost a loved one. We help thoughtful people achieve the peace of mind that comes with planning their personal legacy and passing on family harmony.