If someone asks you to be the executor of their estate, you are naturally going have questions if you have no knowledge of the process. In this post, we will break it down to some simple steps to give you an idea of the tasks that must be completed along the way.
Produce the Document
You have to get your hands on the document before you can do anything else. Presumably, the decedent would have let you know where you can find the will. Of course, if this never happened, you have to scour through the important papers to locate the document.
With the above in mind, when you can still communicate with the testator, you should ask them to include a letter of last instructions. In this letter, necessary information is conveyed by the testator to the person that will act as the estate administrator.
The location of the will and other important documents would be shared along with login information for accounts that are handled online. There are no rules, it is simply a matter of passing along information that will be necessary to administer the estate effectively.
Admit the Will to Probate
An executor is not allowed to administer an estate independently. You have to admit the will to probate, and the court will open the estate and provide supervision during the estate administration process.
This is not a big deal at all. You present the will, and the court will formally empower you to act as the administrator.
Notify Creditors and Inventory the Assets
You have to notify creditors about the passing of the decedent. This is typically done by posting a notice in a newspaper.
Another initial step that must be taken is the asset inventory. You identify the assets that comprise the estate and secure physical property if necessary. During this phase, you also gather all of the relevant ownership documents and other paperwork.
Valuate the Assets
Ultimately, you will be slicing up a pie, so you have to place a value on it. This is easy enough when you are adding up hard numbers, but appraisals will be necessary for certain types of property like jewelry and collectibles.
Open a Bank Account and Pay Final Taxes
You have to obtain an employer identification number to open an estate bank account. Final income taxes will be paid, and if there is estate tax responsibility, you have to settle these debts as well.
The federal estate tax is applicable on transfers that exceed $11.7 million, and here in Connecticut, we have a state-level estate tax. In 2021, the state-level estate tax exemption is $7.1 million.
Pay Other Debts and Expenses
Debts that there were incurred by the decedent must be taken care of before the assets can be distributed to the heirs. Plus, expenses will invariably be incurred by the estate itself when you are completing the administrative tasks, and these must be settled as well.
Distribute the Assets
The final step is very straightforward. After everyone has been paid and the court is fully satisfied, you can distribute the assets to the heirs in accordance with the terms that are set forth in the will.
Probate Can Be Avoided
It is possible to avoid probate altogether. When a living trust is used as an estate plan centerpiece, the trustee that is named in the document would be able to distribute the assets outside of probate.
This can be much more efficient from an estate administration perspective, and there are other benefits that we will explain in a future blog post.
Take Action Today!
If you are going through life without an estate plan, action is required. You can schedule a consultation at our Glastonbury, Connecticut estate planning office if you call us at 860-548-1000.
There is also a contact form on this site you can use to send us a message, and if you reach out electronically, you will receive a prompt response.