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In this article, our New Jersey estate planning attorney will explain how to settle an estate. Please note, however, that this article will only cover the first six items. So, without further ado, let’s jump in and get started!

Find the Will

A will is an important thing to have, but you cannot do your job as executor until you find it. Sometimes that’s an easy task, and for others, it’s not. It’s a very important document, and chances are good that the person will have kept it somewhere safe. Look everywhere you can to find it.

File The Will in Probate Court

So, you found the will, now what? You’ll want to file it with the local probate court, but make sure to give them the original while still retaining a copy for yourself. Even if you don’t think you’ll need to deal with probate hearings, you must still file the will with the court.

Notify Agencies and Businesses of the Death

This includes:

  • The post office
  • Utility companies
  • Credit card companies
  • Banks, and
  • Other businesses the deceased may have had an account with.

You’ll also want to notify any agency through which the deceased was receiving any benefits (like the Social Security Administration). The faster you do, the faster any payments can be stopped and you don’t have to worry about giving money back that the estate isn’t entitled to. And less hassle is always good.

Inventory Assets and Get Appraisals

If you’re going to go through probate, you’ll need a comprehensive list of all the stuff the deceased person owned. Also, it can help you to better keep track of valuables and decide how you’re going to transfer the different items, divide property among beneficiaries who get equal shares, and determine whether or not the estate will owe any state or federal estate taxes.

Determine Whether or Not You Need Probate

In order to do this, you’ll need to figure out the value of all the property that is subject to the probate process, determine how title is held, and learn the rules on what estates can qualify for simpler procedures. It would also be wise to hire an attorney to help with any probate paperwork or help to solve any problems between beneficiaries and creditors.

Coordinate with a successor trustee

If the deceased has left both a will and a living trust, and lots of people do, you’ll need a partner who can be in charge of any trust assets (i.e. the successor trustee). As we saw in another article, a will and trust are similar in a lot of ways, but the major difference is that trust property isn’t required to go through the probate process like things that are named in the will. It can go directly to the people who inherit it! To learn more about how to settle an estate, click here to read part 2.

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