Someone just passed away, and you’re personal representative of the estate.
What should you do?
Prior to the initiation of any probate administration (pre-administration), there are several important issues a personal representative should address.
Gather information about the descendent
The relevant information you’ll want to collect is pretty standard. You’ll need the decedent’s name, address, birth date, address of primary residence at time of death, and date and location of decedent’s death.
You’ll also need to gather information about the decedent’s surviving spouse (if any), beneficiaries, and heirs.
A lot of pre-probate administration leg work involves determining who the decedent’s beneficiaries are. These beneficiaries will inherit the decedent’s property.
Obtain as much contact information about these beneficiaries as possible, such as names, addresses, phone numbers, email addresses, etc. If a formal probate administration is initiated, this information will be necessary.
The names of the decedent’s beneficiaries are typically found in the decedent’s last will and testament.
If the decedent did not have a last will and testament, it would be a good idea at that point to seek the advice of an attorney who handles probate administration.
Obtain information about assets
Gather information about the nature, value, and location of assets.
Determine whether assets owned by the decedent at the time of death were solely in the decedent’s name, owned by the decedent jointly with another, or if the decedent had included beneficiary designations for such assets.
Pay careful attention to assets titled solely in the decedent’s name, as those are most likely to be subject to probate administration. Assets that are titled jointly with another and assets that have recorded beneficiary designations are typically not subject to probate administration (as such assets are not subject to the personal representative’s control).
What about creditors?
It’s a good idea to gather information on all of the decedent’s potential creditors. Not every decedent will owe money to third parties such as credit card companies, health care providers, cable providers, cell phone service providers, etc. Should a formal probate administration be opened, these creditors will need to receive notice of the proceedings so that they can file claims in the estate.
The above tasks represent multiple important steps in the pre-administration process. But it only the tip of the iceberg.
If you have questions or want to know more about the pre-administration process, contact an elder law attorney.