There are times when an estate plan needs to be filed with the probate court, which requires an individual to accept the responsibility of putting this into effect. If there is someone in the estate plan who is named to handle this, they are known as the executor. If the person is appointed to the position, they are known as the administrator. The broad term for either case is the personal representative.
The duties that come with this position are great. While the specific circumstances of the estate will dictate exactly what needs to happen, there are some tasks that must occur in every case. Going through this list might help you to better understand what goes into the administration of an estate.
- Pay for the funeral and burial. This is done using the estate's funds. Working with the funeral home also makes it possible to get copies of the death certificate. The person handling the administration duties will need this to help with some of the tasks.
- Find the assets that are part of the estate. This is necessary so that they can be distributed according to the estate plan's instructions. Finding these assets might be a bit easier if the person had a letter of instruction that makes it clear where they are. This might also include the usernames and passwords for digital accounts.
- Locate heirs and beneficiaries. While it is possible that you already know how to contact each person, you can touch base to let them know what you are doing and find out if they have any questions.
- Collect information about debts. The estate is responsible for paying the deceased person's debts, but this must be handled in a specific manner. It is possible that you might have to liquidate assets to cover the debts. If there are more debts than the total value of the estate, the heirs aren't liable to finish paying off the debts, but they won't receive any inheritance. If there are assets left after the debts are paid, they are distributed in accordance with the estate plan.
- File the last tax return for the estate. This must be done in a timely manner, but you need to have the death certificate in hand before you get this task taken care of.