After the death of a loved one, it is completely normal to experience a wide range of heightened emotions. If you are currently going through this emotional time period, the last thing you want to do is focus on the legal consequences of your loved one’s death. However, if you were appointed to be the Executor of the estate in the decedent’s Last Will and Testament, you will need to do just that because your loved one has trusted you to oversee the probate process.
Time is of the essence when it comes to safeguarding your loved one’s estate. You need to get started in your role as Executor as soon as possible. If you have never before served as an Executor, you may not know where or how to begin. To help get you started, the Riverside probate attorneys at Sandoval Legacy Group discuss five steps for an Executor to take as soon as possible.
- Identify and secure estate assets. As unseemly as it sounds, it is important to get started safeguarding a decedent’s estate immediately upon learning of his or her passing. As the Executor of the estate you must try to identify and secure as many estate assets as possible. This might entail closing financial accounts, changing locks on real property, or physically moving vehicles. A more thorough inventory will occur later; however, the Executor must at least identify enough estate assets to determine if the estate will require formal probate or qualifies for an alternative for small estates.
- Consult with and/or retain a probate attorney. What often appears to be a simple estate with modest assets and no anticipated litigation, can often turn into a nightmare. It is always in your best interest that you speak with an experienced estate planning attorney early on to discuss your options. If it is possible for you to handle the probate yourself, most estate planning attorneys will be honest and tell you that. But they will also point out the traps you may not be aware of and you may opt to hire the attorney to assist you even if the estate is not that large or complicated.
- Initiate the probate of the estate. Most states require an Executor to lodge the original of the decedent’s Last Will and Testament with probate court for the County in which the decedent resided. Along with the Will and a certified copy of the decedent’s death certificate, the Executor will need to file a petition to open the probate of the estate. A certified copy of the death certificate can be obtained through California Department of Public Health.
- Categorize, inventory, and value estate assets. Not all assets are required to go through probate. The Executor must make a more thorough inventory of assets and determine which ones are included in the probate of the estate. A date of death value for each asset must also be ascertained, usually by a court authorized appraiser known as the Probate Referee.
- Notify beneficiaries and creditors that probate is underway. All known legal heirs of the estate must be notified as soon as the probate petition is filed. If the decedent left behind a Last Will and Testament, everyone listed as a beneficiary in that Will should also be made aware of the decedent’s passing and that probate is underway. Known creditors may be notified personally; however, unknown creditors of the estate and any other interested parties will be notified by the publishing of the notice of probate in a local newspaper.
Contact a Riverside Probate Attorney
If you have additional questions or concerns about what steps to take after being appointed as the Executor of an estate, or if you need assistance probating the estate of a decedent, contact an experienced Riverside probate attorney at Sandoval Legacy Group by calling (951) 888-1460 to schedule an appointment.
Have a question? Ask Dennis.
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