1. Find and secure the will. If you can’t find a will, don’t despair, there’s a process to handle the estate if someone dies without a will.
2. Determine whom the will designates as the Executor; the person in charge of administering the will, and contact that person to take possession of the will.
3. The Executor should seek the assistance of a skilled knowledgeable Probate attorney. The Probate attorney will guide you through the Probate process, making sure that no steps are missed. Probate requires Court involvement; it’s not optional.
4. Most Probate cases take a year or more. It’s a huge job, that requires a lot of experience and knowledge. Personal liability is incurred if you don’t know what you’re doing, and this isn’t a legal process that you should attempt without skilled legal help.
5. The Executor and the Probate Attorney must file the will with the Court and pay the required fees to initiate the Probate process. Probate is the Court process necessary to transfer a deceased person’s property to the heirs listed in the will, or if there isn’t a will, to legal relatives, through a system known as Intestacy.
6. The Executor must follow all of the NC legal requirements, associated with Probate, including putting the Notice to Creditors in the local newspaper, and contacting and providing all financial institutions with the correct paperwork.
7. It may be necessary to change locks and codes and to secure keys and other possessions of the deceased, which may disappear.
8. The Executor must secure important paperwork such as life insurance, stocks, bonds, and the like.
9. Lock and protect all of the deceased person’s real estate and personal property. Sometimes people mistakenly believe they have the right to occupy a residence or take items when they don’t.
10. For security purposes have someone stay at the home, or install security systems to watch over the property during family gatherings such as the viewing and the memorial service, which may be advertised in public forums.
11. Keep detailed records of all receipts, bills, expenditures, and time associated with all efforts on behalf of the estate. Some of these expenses are the responsibility of the estate, and may be reimbursable with proper documentation.
12. The Power of Attorney no longer works, so don’t try to use it. It’s not legal.
13. Don’t access the deceased person’s ATM Machine, or use their checks, credit cards, or other accounts. Again, it’s not legal.
14. Obtain 10 Death Certificates from the Register of Deeds Office or the Funeral Home. You’ll need them.
15. Don’t try to use, transfer or sell anything which belonged to the deceased person, such as accounts, real estate or personal stuff, unless you’re listed as the beneficiary, or you have survivorship rights. You likely can’t pass clear title to these assets, you may be legally liable for problems which occur, and it’s difficult to get something back once it has been given away.
16. If you are the beneficiary of the deceased person’s retirement accounts or annuities, don’t cash them out; many of these accounts are taxable, and special rules exist which may personally save you a lot of money if you handle it the correct way.
17. Don’t let anyone use the deceased person’s motor vehicles, boats, or airplanes. Death affects insurance coverage, and personal liability or liability to the estate may accrue if an accident occurs.
18. Contact the Homeowner’s Insurance and Property Insurance Carriers for land and property belonging to the deceased. Death affects title and this coverage, and personal liability may accrue if fire or damage occurs.
19. Make sure that utilities, bills, and services contracted by the deceased person are maintained, reduced, canceled or transferred properly, and that debts and dues which are legally owed are paid on time.
20. Make sure that the deceased person’s pension, insurance benefits and social security payments are stopped by notifying the employer, provider, and the government that the person has died.
Let Us Help
If you’re the Executor, or you can’t find the will, and the deceased was a close relative, and a resident of NC, we’re here to help you.
At the Law Offices of Cheryl David, our mission is to make sure that your family is protected. We’ve been assisting and protecting families with Probate and Administration of their Estates for over 30 years. Don’t go this alone; the difficulty and personal liability isn’t worth the risk. Please call us for a Complimentary Consultation at (336) 547-9999.