Estate administration is time-consuming work, which is why most families let the family lawyer take care of the entire process. But it is always a good idea for at least a couple family members to be involved in the process and understand the types of details that have to be attended to when administering an estate. The attorney will be relying on the family for certain items and pieces of information, so the family should be prepared to provide that information.
Collecting death certificates is not something that family members look forward to, but it is necessary to close out certain accounts and collect on the life insurance. If the deceased was collecting a Social Security check each month, then the Social Security Administration will need a death certificate. You will need to secure a death certificate for each financial organization the deceased did business with, and most of those organizations require original certificates and not copies.
If the deceased drafted their will with one attorney and then changed attorneys later in life, then the family will have to locate the will and get it to the estate administrator. This is something that needs to be taken care of immediately because most probate courts require that the will be filed no later than 30 days after the deceased's passing for the will to be valid.
In order for the family attorney to be the estate administrator, the probate court must approve surrogate certificates for the attorney. These are the official documents from the court that name that attorney as the executor and administrator of the estate. They can also become a point of contention among family members who want to see a different administrator named instead of the attorney.
Most wills spell out who the administrator of the estate will be, and that is the person the probate court normally assigns the surrogate certificates to. But if there is anyone in the family willing to challenge that assignment, then the family could be in for a very long court battle.
One of the biggest mistakes family members make is taking items from the deceased's estate without permission from the administrator. The will and the probate courts will work together to decide how the assets of the deceased will be distributed. In most cases, the assets may have to be liquidated to pay the debts of the deceased, especially if there is no life insurance or large savings account.
The family must get together and agree to not distribute assets on their own without the guidance of the estate administrator. Any family member who takes items before they are officially distributed would be looking at being challenged in court by either the other family members, or the estate administrator themselves.
The smart thing to do when it comes to estate administration is to allow the family attorney to take care of everything. But even the most organized attorney is going to need help from the family to get the estate through probate and make the final distribution of assets. A family that works together can make sure that the deceased's estate is administered with respect, and that the final wishes of the deceased are followed to the letter.