While it is easier to settle an estate that has a valid and legally-binding will, there are still many different steps involved in this process. To help boil down some of the steps, you may want to use the acronym SETTLED to help somewhat simplify the plan.
The SETTLED Method
S: Search for the will in the deceased person’s home, office, safe deposit box, vacation home, friend’s house, family member’s house or anywhere you think the document may be kept.
E: Establish an inventory list of all of the person’s assets. This will help to set the total value of the estate. This will most likely be a very extensive list that could include a home, vacation home, cars, boats, jewelry, furniture, antiques, artwork, rental properties, land, stocks, bonds, checking/savings accounts, etc. Hone your spreadsheet skills!
T: Tell the legal system about the person’s death. This can be accomplished by filing the will and related documents to open the estate with the probate court. The estate may not have to go through a formal probate process if the total value of the estate is valued less than $66,000, but this step is a legal requirement.
T: Track down any type of business with which the deceased may have had accounts, subscriptions or any type of ongoing business relationship. These businesses must be alerted as quickly as possible about the person’s death. Look for information about cell phone companies, banks, utility companies, credit cards, newspapers, magazines, etc. The Social Security Administration must also be alerted. If you reside in a different location from the deceased, you may want to have regular bills and communications forwarded to your own residence so you can stay on top of any incoming bills.
L: Locate outstanding and recurring bills that need to be paid until the estate settlement is finalized. It is the duty of the executor to pay all bills including those for credit cards, mortgages, electricity, medical treatment, alimony, etc. Tax documents must also be located so the deceased’s final income tax return and estate income tax returns can be filed. Outstanding bills must be paid by the estate before it can be fully settled (unless special arrangement is made between the estate and creditors to defer the payments or revoke the bills).
E: Enlist the help of outsiders, if necessary, to help with the extensive responsibilities of an executor. This may include hiring a landscaping company or cleaning service to care for physical property that is abandoned until the estate is settled. The executor may not have the time to spend on these small, but important details. It may also include hiring a Denver estate settlement attorney to help manage the executor functions and keep the process moving forward. There are a lot of steps to navigate in this process. The legal fees of the executor are typically paid for with estate assets.
D: Distribute assets to individuals or organizations as specified in the will after all outstanding debts are paid and the courts have determined the estate can be finalized. Once this process is complete, your role as executor will be over.
The Colorado estate lawyers at Brown & Crona, LLC are currently accepting new clients who may need help in any or all of the SETTLED steps listed above. SETTLED is just a broad start to estate settlement in Denver; this experienced team can also jump in when the process gets more complicated and challenging. Regardless of where you are in the executor role of estate settlement, our team can help. Contact us today: call (303) 339-3750 or send us a message online.