If you’ve ever been put in the position as executor of an estate, you know that it can be a lot of work, even if the deceased made arrangements beforehand. Organizing an estate is emotional and a lot of time consuming hard work, but you can make even a disorganized estate go more smoothly if you follow some basic guidelines.
1. Find all paperwork – if the deceased was organized, paperwork will either be in files at home, in bank safety deposit boxes, at an attorney’s office or at an accountant’s office. If the deceased wasn’t so organized, you might have to sort through all belongings to find relevant paperwork.
2. Contact an attorney – in the best of circumstances, the deceased will already have an attorney. If not, find a local probate attorney. He or she will advise you on the best ways to proceed.
3. Work with the funeral home and arrange to receive death certificates. Once you do receive them, notify all creditors, banks, the Social Security administration, pension offices, Medicare, insurance companies, drivers license bureau, etc. of the death.
4. Sort through belongings – if a will doesn’t specify that belongings to go a specific person, any valuables should be sold as part of the estate and divided between heirs. Donate the rest to charity and use it as a tax deduction for the estate.
5. Store belongings – if the estate needs to go into probate (the attorney will tell you) it may take a while before you are able to disperse the belongings. If the home needs to be sold, it’s a good idea to get a storage unit.
6. Open a bank account – you’ll need it to pay the estate’s debts. You can also pay day to day expenses out of the bank account without having to wait for the estate to come out of probate.
7. Pay debts and taxes – a CPA can be your best friend in this case.
A good moving company can come in very handy when dealing with an estate. They can help you pack, organize, store and move the belongings, even if they have to go to several different states.
If you are planning your estate, you can prearrange with your favorite moving company to help once the time comes. Payment can generally be made through the estate’s bank account, but check with your attorney.