You’ve been appointed as the Personal Representative of an estate. Maybe you’ve hired an attorney to assist with the settlement of the estate or perhaps you’re handling everything on your own. Either way, you will need to sort through the decedent’s affairs in a prompt manner. Once you receive papers from the court stating you are authorized to act on behalf of the estate, you can proceed with gathering information. The Letter of Administration designates the Personal Representative of the estate and is your key to accessing information about the decedent.
A lot of work must be accomplished early on in the process. Within three months of your appointment as personal representative, an inventory and information report must be filed with the Register of Wills. The Inventory lists the date of death values of all probate assets. The Information Report notifies the Register of Wills of any assets subject to inheritance tax, which is based on the relationship of the beneficiary to the decedent. If assets are discovered after these reports are filed, the documents may be amended or supplemented.
How are you going to find this information? If you are not the spouse of the decedent, you may be unfamiliar with the decedent’s financial affairs. For starters, you should review bank statements, checkbook registers, tax returns, credit card statements, and brokerage account statements. Mail should be forwarded to the Personal Representative or attorney. Tax forms that are mailed early in the year will provide insight into where the decedent maintained accounts.
The Personal Representative needs to ensure insurance is maintained for the property. Insurance agents should also be contacted regarding automobile policies. If the decedent owned a safe deposit box, the contents should be inventoried. Finally, you may also search the decedent’s computer, address book, and email contacts. This will clue you in to any key advisors such as financial planners, accountants, or attorneys who worked with the decedent and might be familiar with existing accounts, insurance policies, tax information, and estate planning documents.
If you need assistance, an attorney who is familiar with estate administration can help guide you through the process. For more information on the process of administering an estate, visit https://www.sinclairprosserlaw.com/services/trust-administration-probate/trust-administration-probate-definitions/
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