Being named as an estate administrator or executor can be an overwhelming experience. There’s a good chance that the person who named you didn’t give you a copy of their will (let alone their entire estate plan, including an inventory of their assets). What do you do? Where do you start?
In this post, we’re going to look at your role as the estate administrator or executor and explain your basic responsibilities. Also, please know that we understand if you find the entire process (and even this post) overwhelming. You don’t have to do everything at once. You can even tell the court no if you really don’t think that you can fulfill your duties. You can also hire a probate lawyer to help you.
Look for a Will
The very first thing you need to do is look for a will. A will has the ability to make your responsibilities easier. This is because the document acts as instructions for you to follow as far as how assets should be distributed and to whom they should be given. The California probate court will also want to know if there is a will. They will want to review the will to determine if it is valid. If you don’t know where the will could be, find out if the person had a safety deposit box, a safe, or a locked file cabinet. If the deceased had an attorney, the lawyer may have a copy of it. If they had an accountant or financial advisor, you might also check with them.
If there’s no will, the probate process can take longer.
Begin the Probate Process
While not every asset will pass through probate, you may find it best to wait to distribute any assets until you first open a case with the probate court. In addition to presenting a will (if there is one), you’ll also need to complete certain reports and turn them over to the judge. If there is no will, the State of California will follow state laws to distribute assets.
The Estate Administrator or Executor Must Itemize Assets of the Deceased
If the deceased took the necessary steps to create and update an estate plan, the job of the estate administrator or executor will be a little bit easier because there will be at least a basic inventory of the existing assets. It is your job to make sure that you have a complete list of assets. You may also have to schedule an appraisal for certain assets. The value will be recorded and reported to the court.
Locate and Inform Heirs
This may be done with use of a will, other estate planning documents, talking to members of the family, or even through a process known as publication. You must locate and inform heirs of the death. Heirs have a right to attend probate hearings and to even content what happens. You’ll also need this information to distribute assets.
Handle Debts, Expenses, and Taxes
You’ll need to notify creditors of the death. They will have a certain amount of time to file a claim against the estate. It will be your job to pay out on debts, pay expenses, and take care of any estate taxes. Generally, this must be done before assets can be distributed to heirs.
Provide a Final Accounting to the Probate Court
When it is time for the estate to be closed, it will be your responsibility as the estate administrator to create and provide a final accounting to the probate court. This explains to the court exactly what happened with debts, taxes, assets, and other important information.
Are You an Heir Trying to Collect from an Estate?
If you’re an heir trying to collect from an estate, we may be able to help you. Click here to go through our quick and easy list of questions. We’ll let you know within minutes if we’re able to help!