After a loved one passes away, you and your family may need to locate the will and begin the estate administration process. This could seem like a daunting task. Fortunately, if you are not the executor, it is not your job to do anything besides alert the court if you find a will.
Finding the Will
Your loved one could have left a will almost anywhere – in a safe deposit box, with a lawyer, among other important paperwork, or in a box under the bed. Ask family members if the deceased person ever mentioned a will (or mentioned not making a will). Look for contact information of an estate planning attorney or other trusted professional who may have the will.
If you find a will, you, the executor, or another family member need to alert the probate court that the will exists. (Sometimes, if the estate is small enough, this is not necessary – talk to a lawyer to learn more.) The will should list an executor that the loved one has chosen to distribute his or her estate. Once the probate court learns of the will, a judge should appoint the estate executor to gather and distribute the estate.
If you cannot find a will or believe that the deceased person did not make one, don’t worry. The estate may be small enough that family members can distribute it themselves, or you may need the probate court to appoint a personal representative in lieu of an executor.
The Estate Administration Process
During the estate administration process, the executor or personal representative gathers all assets that belonged to the deceased person. He or she must list the assets and their values for the court. The executor also identifies and locates heirs. Once the court approves, the executor can distribute estate assets to the heirs in the manner explained in the will or prescribed by law. This is often referred to as “probating the will”. The executor also handles filing and paying taxes, and he or she helps meet any other legal requirements or resolve any disputes that arise.
Executors often need help from probate lawyers to handle court appearances and filings. If you have been appointed executor and are in over your head, reach out to a local lawyer for assistance.
Need help administering an estate? Local attorney Andrew Szocka, Esq. provides thorough and speedy estate planning help in the Chicagoland area. To schedule a free initial consultation, visit the Law Office of Andrew Szocka, P.C. online or call the office at (815) 455-8430.