Don’t become overwhelmed by the tasks involved in probating a will. You can often minimize the stress associated with performing your executor duties by staying organized and creating a checklist. Follow your checklist to confirm that you have performed each step of the probate process. However, in some cases it may be a good idea to retain a professional to assist you with your duties.
Submit Will for Probate
If appropriate, file the will in the probate court in the jurisdiction where the decedent lived. The Court will usually appoint the named executor to the will unless there is a valid reason to reject the decedent’s choice. Petition the Court for letters that prove the Court has appointed you as executor, and request certified copies of the death certificate. You will need these documents to perform your executor duties.
Notify Interested Parties
Notify all beneficiaries who are named in the will. Send notices to utility companies, credit card companies, banks, post offices and other companies or institutions with which the decedent was conducting business. Notify government agencies such as the IRS and the SSA.
Create Bank Account
Obtain a federal tax identification number, or EIN, from the IRS in the estate’s name. You will need the EIN to open a bank account in the name of the estate. Transfer the decedent’s money and deposit income earned by the estate into the estate’s bank account. Pay the decedent’s debts and estate’s expenses from the estate’s bank account.
Locate and assemble the estate’s assets. This task might involve obtaining bank account information, property deeds, car or boat registrations, stock certificates and information about personal items. If this information is not readily available, you might have to conduct research to determine what property is owned by the estate and where the property is located. Consider such potential assets as safety deposit boxes, unpaid salaries, uncollected rental income, money owed to decedent from debtors, insurance benefits, deposit refunds, and business or property interests.
Inventory the estate’s assets and submit the inventory to the Court, including the value of the property at the time of the decedent’s death. If the value of the property is not readily ascertainable, you will need to have the property appraised and submit the appraisal with your inventory to the Court. This inventory becomes a public record. Each state has specific rules governing the inventory requirements and filing deadline. Review the statutes of the state where you are probating the will.
As executor, you must address creditors’ claims. Pay those debts that the estate clearly owes, such as a mortgage for instance, using funds from the estate’s bank accounts. You might need to defend the estate against refutable claims made by creditors. File tax returns, and pay income and estate taxes
Once the estate has settled all claims, close the estate and distribute assets to the beneficiaries named in the will.