The death of a loved one can cripple a family. It is a time of grief, helplessness, and loss. It does not matter if their passing was expected — a loss as immense as this causes a distress that cannot be put into words. But what adds to the wretchedness of the time is the immense responsibility of taking care of the end of life affairs of the recently deceased loved one. The estate executor in charge of the estate settlement needs to be able to efficiently and precisely deal with the process of carrying out the last will and testimony of the deceased person while dealing with their own grief.
What makes matters worse is the system of estate settlement is outdated and involves a tediously long procedure. The piles of paperwork to be filed, filled, and signed themselves are never ending. But there are also the bills, dues, and taxes to be dealt with. Coupled with the drama that the relatives of the recently deceased often get into regarding the division of assets, the entire time can be tremendously stressful for the estate executor. Thankfully, the team of legal advisors, accountants, and dedicated managers can help provide estate executors the support, knowledge, and tools they need to tackle the entire procedure.
But, before even starting the process of estate settlement, a recently appointed or prospective estate executor must gather some idea about what they are getting into. The following section, thus, lists in detail the steps an estate executor needs to go through and the things they need to take care of while settling the estate of a recently deceased friend or family.
Settling an estate: A step by step guide
Settling an estate is not an easy task to say the least. Even if the estate executor did not have their own feelings of loss and grief to deal with, the entire procedure would still prove tremendously exhausting and immensely confusing for them. This makes it very important to begin the process by doing the proper research.
Before beginning the process of estate settlement, an estate executor should become aware of their responsibilities. If the passing of the loved one is imminent and expected, this preparation can be done beforehand. So, for the uninitiated estate executor, here is a step by step guide to settling an estate:
Locating and validating the will:
At the very beginning of the process, an estate executor must work on locating the last will of the recently deceased loved one. If their passing was expected, chances are that they will have always discussed the location and details of the same with the estate executor. If that has not been done, the executor can begin by contacting the attorney of the deceased. If the will cannot be located even then, a notice must be published in the local newspaper — asking the person in possession of the will to come forward so you can proceed with the next step of the process.
Once the will has been located, it needs to be filed at the probate court following the informal probate procedure. In case the deceased person failed to leave behind a last will and testimony, the division of the funds and assets can be done according to the rules of the court.
Assess the assets/liabilities
The next step in the process is creating an inventory of the assets left behind by the person. Once an inventory is created, the values of the assets must be calculated and the list can be then submitted to the probate court. If any asset or real estate needs to be sold, the estate executor would then oversee that too and ensure the money is deposited in the estate account.
Communicate with beneficiaries
This is something that can be done beforehand when you have located the will. Once you know who the assets will go to and how it will all be divided between various people, the beneficiaries need to be contacted and informed about the matter.
If applicable, apply for probate
A probate refers to the will’s copy that is certified by the court with proper jurisdiction with a seal. A probate can become necessary in cases where there are a lot of assets, especially ones that cannot be moved, that are located in different states of the country. So, it is again the responsibility of the estate executor to apply for probate in case such a situation arises.
Pay debts, and taxes
In case the person whose estate you are settling left behind debts and had taxes to pay, those dues need to be paid off before the division of assets is done. For this, an estate account needs to be created where any and all the money, cheques, and tax returns of the recently deceased needs to be deposited. The funeral expenses, dues, taxes, and bills would all be paid from this account.
Distribute remaining assets to beneficiaries
Once all the funds that the recently deceased had — be it from cheques, tax returns, sale of asset and real estate — is deposited to the account and all the dues, taxes, and bills are paid off, the remaining assets and funds would need to be properly divided among the beneficiaries according to the terms and percentages mentioned in the last testament of the recently dec
After all beneficiaries have received their shares, it is time to close the estate account for good. The closure of the account can be an emotional moment for the estate executor because — despite the hassle involved while taking care of the end of life affairs of the loved one — the account closure signifies that all the last wishes and will of the deceased loved one have been taken care of.
This is why Clear Estate attempts to make the entire process as easy on the estate executor as possible. After all, it is in such dire moments in life that we need the biggest help, and Clear Estate is there to provide you the professional support you need to settle an estate — from the moment of locating and filing the will to the moment when you finally close the estate account.