Essentially, the winding up of someone’s affairs entails collecting all information about assets and liabilities, complying with tax laws and then, once creditors have been satisfied, closing all accounts and distributing inheritances.
If your estate is particularly large and complex, you might be well advised to appoint both a relative or friend and an estate lawyer or an accountant. That way you have the benefit of someone who knew you well and has a sense of how you might have liked issues handled, and a professional who can guide your estate through the labyrinth of tax laws. In the alternative, an executor who plans to handle the bulk of the work alone may elect to consult with a lawyer on certain issues about which (s)he is unsure, or turn the more complicated probate process over to a lawyer entirely for an agreed fee.
The executor’s duties include: First and foremost, finding the deceased’s most current valid will. When you make a will, it’s very important to ensure that your executor(s) knows where to find it. * When someone dies intestate (without leaving a valid will), an administrator must work to determine who the beneficiaries of the estate should be. * Determining whether probate proceedings are required. State laws vary, and probate will depend on the value of the estate. It may be possible to legally give some assets directly to their named recipients even if other property is subject to probate. If probate is necessary, then the executor files the appropriate legal documents with the local probate court.
Probate can take some time — often a year. During that time the executor manages the affairs of the estate and makes decisions as needed. o A final income tax return must be filed, covering the period from the beginning of the last year of the deceased’s life until the date of death. Depending on the value of the deceased’s assets, estate taxes may be owed. At the IRS website (www.irs.gov), Publication 559 has valuable information and instructions for survivors, executors and administrators of estates.
All traces of the deceased are tidied: health care providers, banks, government agencies such as Social Security and Veterans Administration, brokerage companies need to be informed of the death. * The executor will need multiple certified copies of the death certificate for the purpose of closing accounts and facilitating stock transfers or sales. Leases will need to be terminated and property may be sold. Proof of the owner’s death will be required for these transactions. The final task is to ensure that beneficiaries receive the assets left to them in the will. When an executor has finished with an estate, the deceased will be free of paperwork. No more mail, no obligations, no ongoing business, no property. Financially, the file is closed.