We help you settle the estate of a loved one who has passed away.

Example: Ron’s mother passed away last month. What should he do?

The answer depends on what kind of estate plan his mother had in place when she died. Some things pass to the new owner without any formal process. For example, life insurance benefits pass to the named beneficiary automatically, and assets held by a trustee under a living trust pass according to the terms of the trust itself.  In other words, such assets pass outside probate.

All other assets pass through probate. If Ron’s mother had a will, then they will go according to the will. If she didn’t have a will, then they will go according to state law. Probate refers to the process supervised by a court to make this transfer of a decedent’s money and property.

Ron’s first step is to file a petition with the court, asking it to admit the will of record and appoint him “executor.” If his mother didn’t have a will, he will file the same petition but ask the court to appoint him “administrator.” There are rules which he will have to follow. For example, he will have to file an inventory with the court listing all the assets in his mother’s estate.

What does an executor do?

As executor or administrator, it will be Ron’s job to collect his mother’s assets and pay any bills which are due. Creditors have 6 months to present claims, and after that time passes, he can distribute the assets to the appropriate people. He must then file a final accounting with the court for approval.

Some estates are settled quickly and easily, especially if all the family is in agreement. Other estates are more complicated. Some people are comfortable handling probate on their own, but as with any court proceeding, many people prefer having a lawyer represent them. We are honored to represent executors and administrators as they settle their loved ones’ estates.