1. Determine the Type of Estate:
Before beginning any work, it is important to determine whether an estate is “testate” (i.e., with a valid will) or “intestate” (no valid will).
2. Identify and Notify Heirs/Beneficiaries:
All heirs/beneficiaries must be identified and notified of their rights as soon as possible.
3. Collect All Assets:
Gather all assets belonging to the deceased, including tangible items such as furniture and jewelry, real estate, vehicles, and financial accounts (stocks, bonds, mutual funds, etc.).
4. Pay Debts & Taxes:
All debts and taxes owed by the estate must be paid before assets can be distributed to heirs/beneficiaries.
5. File Necessary Paperwork:
Probate forms must be filed with the appropriate court (probate court), and any tax returns must also be submitted.
6. Distribute Assets:
Once all paperwork has been filed and approved by the court, assets can then begin to be distributed under the deceased's wishes as outlined in their will or state intestacy laws.
7. Close Estate:
After all, assets have been distributed and debts settled, a final accounting must be submitted to the probate court, which will then issue an order closing out the estate. This order is essential for settling any remaining disputes or claims against the estate.
8. Final Disposition:
The executor must ensure that all final arrangements are made for the deceased, such as arranging for a funeral or burial service, if necessary. This may also include disposing of any remaining assets following state law.