Estate administration require attention to detail.
Your loved one named you as the executor or trustee through estate planning.
Now, your loved one is dead.
You know you need to take action.
Unfortunately, you are unsure what steps you need to take.
According to a recent The Record-Courier article titled “Protecting an estate requires swift action,” specific actions must be taken for successful estate administration.
Missteps could lead to both loss and liability.
After the death of your loved one, you should immediately secure the home of the deceased, any vehicles, and other personal property.
How do you do this?
You will likely want to hire a locksmith to change the locks on the home.
This will prevent anyone who had a key in the past from stealing items from the home.
Cars should be parked inside the garage, and personal property should be stored within the house.
All property should remain secure until the estate administration is complete.
In addition to protecting tangible property, you will also need to secure digital assets and devices owned or managed by the deceased.
You will also need to arrange to receive mail on behalf of the decedent.
This is important in preventing identity theft.
To accomplish this, you can physically retrieve it from the mailbox or notify the post office and have the mail forwarded to your address.
Estate planning documents are essential to effective estate administration.
Locate these and store them in a safe place.
If there are no estate planing documents (i.e., your loved one died “intestate”) and, consequently, no one has been named as the executor, you will need to meet with an estate planning attorney and work with the probate court to have an “administrator” appointed.
The court will also provide direction on estate administration through probate proceedings.
What should you do if the decedent had a revocable living trust in place?
The decedent most likely included a last will and testament with the trust.
This last will and testament (also known as a “pour-over will” when prepared to work with a revocable living trust) will need to be delivered to the court clerk by the executor to avoid civil liability.
You also will need to obtain at least five to ten original death certificates. I usually recommend a dozen.
As the executor or trustee, you will need these to close accounts.
Quickly make financial institutions, creditor companies, pensions plans, insurance companies, and the Social Security Administration aware of the death.
If the decedent received a Social Security benefit after death, you will need to return the direct deposit.
If the decedent was a veteran, you should notify the office of Veteran’s Affairs (VA).
Survivor benefits or funeral benefits may be available.
Although the death of a loved one is a challenging time, executors and trustees must be diligent to fulfill their role in the estate administration.
Reference: The Record-Courier (Oct. 17, 2020) “Protecting an estate requires swift action”