If you feel nervous or overwhelmed about having been named executor or personal representative of an estate, then you are not alone. Estate administration is a more or less complicated process that overwhelms many people, especially in the grievous time after the death of a loved one. Many factors determine the degree of complexity in estate administration, so let's go over some of the basic steps.
In general, the administration of an estate involves settling the decedent's debts and distributing the decedent's assets. To that end, it is important to identify all assets and debts in a comprehensive inventory, as well as notify all creditors that the decedent has passed away. All of these steps are made much easier with the help of an attorney.
Once the estate has been inventoried, then any outstanding debts will be paid with funds from the estate. If the estate doesn't have enough assets to settle the decedent's accounts, then the court may determine which creditors will be paid.
The next step is to distribute any remaining assets to heirs and beneficiaries. While everyone should have a valid will to clarify these matters, not everyone does. If the decedent died without a will, or if there is a dispute over the contents of a will, then a lawyer can help with probate litigation. Keep in mind that, if there is no valid will, assets will be distributed in accordance with Kentucky law.
(You can read about avoiding probate altogether in our previous post on wills and trusts.)
When the proper distribution of assets and payment of debts have been decided, the final tax returns can be prepared and the estate can be closed. With the right help and the proper planning, this final phase of estate administration can be a major relief for all parties involved.
At Landrum & Shouse LLP, our attorneys help families, executors and personal representatives meet their estate administration goals. If you would like to learn more about our areas of practice, please visit our estate planning and probate overview.