Every situation is unique, and some are more complicated than others. It is best to consult an attorney to offer advice for your particular situation. General practice attorneys or attorneys that specialize in estate planning are able to assist in creating wills, passing on properties and assets, and addressing tax implications. Before meeting with an attorney, there are several important documents they may ask you to provide. These include:
- Bank statements and investment portfolios
- Life insurance policies
- Vehicle and other titles
- Tax documents
- Last will and testament
- Marriage license or divorce decree
- Death certificate
Procedures for bank accounts following death vary regionally. In some areas, bank accounts are automatically frozen after a death. To avoid any complications, the bank should be notified immediately of a death. The bank employees will guide you through the next steps.
Certified death certificates are required in order to conduct business on behalf of a deceased and their estate. A funeral director can help determine the number of certificates that may be needed for various purposes. Photocopies cannot be presented as a substitute for a certified death certificate. Additional death certificates can always be obtained by contacting the funeral home.
Most everyone recognizes the need for a will, but the vast majority never follow through. Preparing a will can be easy and inexpensive. Once your will has been established you can be assured that your estate will be distributed according to your wishes.
Probate is the legal process that transfers the ownership of property from the estate of the deceased to their beneficiaries. During the probate process, the executor of your will goes before the courts and proves that the will is valid and legal, identifies all the property you owned, appraises the property, pays all debts and taxes, and distributes the remaining assets according to the instructions of the will.
An executor is the personal and legal representative of your estate, as designated in your will. The executor’s duties include: managing your assets, retiring any debts, and distributing remaining assets to your beneficiaries according to the terms and conditions of your will. It is a good idea to choose someone who is both competent and trustworthy. It is wise to appoint a contingent executor in case the executor is unavailable or unable to fulfill their duties.