By Steve Wright
When a loved one passes away, it is an emotional time that you should spend with family and friends. Unfortunately, here are a few tasks that will require your attention soon after the death if you are the estate representative.
An important first step you must take as the estate representative is to locate any legal estate documents that the deceased may have had created, particularly any trusts and/or wills. These documents will play a fundamental role in disseminating the estate. Also, you will need at least one certified death certificate. It's a good idea to have at least three. Most financial institutions will require documentation that you are the estate representative and a copy of the certified death certificate in order to release information to you.
Next, you will want to begin compiling the assets and liabilities the decedent left behind. A good starting point is to check their mail.
The mail will usually contain updated bank statements and statements from other financial institutions such as mutual funds, stocks and bonds. These statements will start you on the right path of determining what assets there are and what to you will need to do with them. In addition to gathering financial statements for each account that the decedent had, you will also want to seek information on other assets such as real estate, insurance, and titled vehicles.
Another good step to take is to contact each institution that the decedent received any type of income from, such as Social Security, STRS, or the Department of Veterans Affairs. This is important so that you can avoid future repayment requests and it will also inform you of any funds or other benefits that may be due the estate.
Finally, contact the decedent's estate planning attorney if they had one. Often, the law office who prepared the estate plan can provide you, as the estate representative, with invaluable guidance during this process.