When a person passes away, his or her personal representative is responsible for settling their estate. One of the most important first steps for the personal representative to take is to find all of the deceased person’s estate planning documents and supporting information.
This will help the personal representative meet his or her obligation to distribute the estate assets according to the deceased person’s will or trust.
Assets and debts
There are several documents that may contain asset information. These include bank and investment statements, insurance policies, stock certificates, property deeds and vehicle titles. The personal representative should also note how the assets are titled, such as individually or jointly with another person.
It’s also important for the personal representative to obtain information about the deceased person’s outstanding debts because creditors may make claims for payment. These debts may include credit card bills, mortgages, medical bills and loans.
After all of the final bills have been paid, the personal representative must prepare and file the deceased person’s final tax return as well as pay any income taxes or estate taxes that are due.
Once these steps are complete, then the personal representative can make distributions of any remaining assets to the beneficiaries. The distributions may be made in several stages, depending on the size and complexity of the estate.
There are sometimes situations where a personal representative fails to distribute assets, distributes them improperly or fails to provide an accounting of the assets. If beneficiaries believe that the assets were not handled correctly, an experienced estate planning attorney can review the situation and provide advice.