Estate Administration Tips

FOR THE CLIENT:

  • It is important to place your original Will in a safe place and make certain that your Executor or close family member knows its exact location.
  • It is helpful to keep a list of your assets and debts, including information on any life insurance policies, retirement benefits and investment accounts, with your original will. Include contact information for anyone you have dealt with regarding these assets and debts, and update this information on a regular basis.
  • Please be sure that your family knows if you have a safe deposit box, where it is located and the location of the keys.
  • Please be sure that if you designate beneficiaries on your various brokerage and bank accounts, such designations(s) are in agreement with your estate planning documents.  You should review this periodically to be certain everything is consistent.  Otherwise, you run the risk of the funds not going to the persons you desire.
  • Do you and your family members know your plans for long term care and end of life? While we may desire to live out our days at home, this is not always practical or possible.
  • Have you communicated the contents of your plan to family and loved ones? Does your executor/administrator know who prepared your plan and who to rely on for help during the administration process?

FOR THE EXECUTOR/ADMINISTRATOR:

  • Upon the death of a family member or friend, call your attorney with any questions or concerns. It is okay to take time to grieve.
  • A decedent’s Power of Attorney ceases upon death. You should never write checks on the decedent’s account after the date of death.
  • When meeting with the Funeral Director, please be sure to confirm that the information on the Death Certificate is completely accurate. You can verify this information by using the decedent’s Social Security Card, Birth Certificate, Income Tax Returns, etc. This will alleviate the expense of having them corrected.
  • Prepare a list of assets so that you are able to calculate the number of original death certificates that you will need to administer your family member’s estate. A general rule is that you need one death certificate for each of the decedent’s assets.  Contact your attorney if you need assistance.
  • It is important that you keep us apprised if you or any beneficiaries have a change of address.
  • It is also important that you provide us with all statements and mail received from date of death until the administration is complete so that assets and debts are not missed.
  • Always keep the assets (home, auto, etc.) insured until such time as they are sold or transferred.
  • It is okay to dispose of food and clothing. However, it is not recommended that you begin disposing of personal or household property until you meet with your attorney.
  • If possible, do not pay any debts of the decedent before an estate is opened and an appropriate payment order established. There is an order in which the debts must be paid and you could be personally liable if they are not paid in the correct order.  In addition, try to avoid paying debts with your own funds.
  • It is important to communicate with family members throughout the process, especially in the event problems and/or questions arise. Lack of communication is a primary cause of family friction during the administration of an estate.

 

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