How to Settle an Estate After Death
Coping with the death of a loved one is difficult. Dealing with the flood of emotions is often interrupted by the sheer volume of work that goes into funeral or memorial service planning as well as settling the person’s estate. If you are named the executor of your loved one’s will, you have a large responsibility ahead of you.
The best way to approach this situation is to remember that your loved one had a great deal of faith and trust in your abilities to get this important job done. Rather than let the task overwhelm you, take each of these steps one at a time: stay organized, document the details and don’t be afraid to ask for professional help if it all seems too much.
Steps to Settle an Estate
Locate the will. Hopefully, as the executor, you know where the will is kept. If not, check the person’s home office, filing cabinet, safe deposit box, etc. The will serves as a roadmap to guide you in carrying out the person’s wishes, so it is vital that it is located.
Make a list. This could be a time-consuming task because it involves making an inventory of all the assets, both physical property and monetary accounts. Assets can include such items as homes, cars, boats, jewelry, furniture, antiques, artwork, rental properties, land, stocks, bonds, checking/savings accounts, etc. Each individual item does not have to be extremely valuable to be included in the inventory; it is the sum of the estate that is important.
Alert the courts. The will must be filed with the probate court. In Colorado, if your estate is worth less than $66,000 and includes no real estate, there may be no probate action required, but there still could be forms for you to complete to ensure the money is received by the beneficiaries of the Estate.
Alert businesses. Contact the Social Security Administration, the deceased’s bank, phone and utility companies, credit card companies to alert them of the death. You may also need to cancel newspaper or magazine subscriptions, cell phones, etc. As the executor, you may want to have mail forwarded to your home for ease in managing incoming bills.
Pay the bills and taxes. Mortgage payments, electricity bills, credit card bills, alimony, medical bills and more will keep coming to the residence of the deceased. These bills could be paid in a timely manner by the beneficiaries, subject to reimbursement from the Estate, until the estate is opened. After that, any outstanding bills and taxes can be paid for directly from the estate. If the beneficiaries are unable to cover the expenses owed, they may be able to have the bills deferred by contacting each company individually and explaining the situation.
Maintain property. It is the executor’s responsibility to care for any physical property included in the estate. The probate process can be lengthy, so it is on your shoulders to keep homes, cars, etc. in good working order.
Play Santa. After the estate is settled, you will be in charge of distributing assets to individuals or organizations as specified in the will.
If you find yourself in the role of an executor, but you simply do not have the time to handle the tasks, you do have options:
- Hire an estate administration lawyer to help you understand the process and help you with the vast majority of your duties
- Decline the responsibility (the court will appoint a replacement if no alternate is designated)
- Resign as the executor at any time (the court will appoint a replacement if no alternate is designated)
It is important to allow yourself time to grieve the loss of your loved one. However, there are deadlines with which an executor must comply. If you would like help, contact the Denver estate lawyers at The Brown Law Firm, LLC for legal advice about how to settle a will in Colorado. Contact us today: call (303) 339-3750 or send us a message online.