As an estate and trust lawyer, I am asked frequently, "what do I do if my spouse dies", or "what are my first steps". This article will help start to answer those questions.
Your Ten Initial Steps of Estate or Trust Admnistration:
Here we explore your initial administration tasks and checklist. Use this in your meetings with the estate or trust lawyer to help guide your meetings and in developing your master action list of all tasks you are responsible for. Your master action list is your list of ALL actions and tasks that you take or assign to others from the beginning to the end of the estate or trust administration.
This is not meant to be used as your master action list, but as a guide to follow to understand the initial steps in estate or trust administration and to help you build your master action list. Here is an excellent article from the Colorado Bar Association that you will also find useful.
Your First Ten Steps:
- File the decedent's Will with the Court or determine the requirements to register the decedent's trust. You will also determine the necessity of obtaining taxpayer identification numbers for the estate or trust.
- Take steps to reduce identity theft by contacting Social Security, the DMV, all banks and brokerage firms where the decedent held accounts. The Death Certificate will be necessary at some places.
- Close the decedent's accounts, but not trust accounts if there are any.
- Determine the property and assets. You will do this with the estate or trust attorney. You will be creating schedules of assets based on how assets are owned by the decedent. I have discussed in prior articles the ways that assets can be owned.
- Obtain asset values. All of the assets must be valued as of the date of death. These are easy to obtain, and the estate or trust attorney can help you.
- Determine if a probate proceeding is necessary. This will depend on your state law, the type of assets and ownership or title by the decedent.
- Determine whether estate, inheritance or death tax filings are required for either the IRS or individual states. Again, the estate and trust attorney will guide you.
- Start your accounting as of the date of death. You are required to track all receipts and all disbursements from the date of death forward.
- With the guidance of the attorney determine who will receive copies of the decedent's Will and/or trust.
- Commence the estate or trust administration.