If you've lost a loved one, you want to do everything you can to make sure their last wishes are handled to the best of your abilities. You most likely want to fulfill your responsibilities as soon as practical, but may not be sure where to start.
A few questions will help you determine a starting point. Is there a will or other governing instrument that you know of which disposes of property and names the executor / executrix of the estate? If so, do you know where it is and do you have access to it? Does the will have a pour-over provision into a trust? Can you estimate the total value of the estate?
If you're not sure whether there is a will, consider locations where a will may have been placed. A safe deposit box at a bank may contain a will, for example. The deceased may also have placed their will in a safe place in their home or place of abode. If the deceased had an attorney they consulted with regularly, call their office and ask whether a will was prepared.
If you know or are reasonably certain that there is no will in place, state laws will most likely determine the executor of the estate and how property will be distributed to beneficiaries.
Other questions you should ask include:
What kinds of assets did the deceased have? Bank accounts, real property, personal property, stocks, etc.?
What kinds of debts did the deceased have? Mortgage payments, credit card payments, medical bills, etc.?
Who else may need to be informed about the deceased's passing?
Where to I go to receive a death certificate?
How will funeral expenses be paid for?
Consulting an attorney about what to do and how it needs to be done will provide you with an estimated timeframe and help you understand what your responsibilities are throughout the estate administration process. If you have any questions concerning any phase of the estate administration, I encourage you to contact me.
North Carolina created an estate procedure document which provides a helpful overview about the administration process. While this document is not a substitute for legal advice, it is a tool which will increase your understanding of the timeframe and issues of estate administration. Read the document here. For more information about the estate administration process in Buncombe County, click here.
This section is designed to:
Help you determine a starting point for estate administration
Determine whether the decedent had a will
Think about what sorts of assets and liabilities the decedent had