We all have to go, sooner or later. And many of us choose to leave more than memories to the loved ones. This is why making a will and specifying the inheritors has become of utmost importance. If you care about your spouse and children, make sure that their future is secured long after you are gone. Before receiving any money and access to estate, the beneficiaries will have to wait for the probate process to finish and the inheritance distributed. There are several steps for any typical probate.
The first thing to do is to make an inventory of the decedent's assets and documents. Locate and carefully place Last Will and Testament, funeral instructions, and/or a Revocable Living Trust. Furthermore, you must find documents relevant to the decedent's financial situation (bank and brokerage statements, stock and bond certificates, life insurance policies, corporate records, car and boat titles).
Also, check if there are any debts to be paid before accessing the assets. Verify utility bills, credit card bills, mortgages, personal loans, medical bills and the funeral bill. The Personal Representative will have to decide which debts are legitimate and must be paid.
Next, get appointed as Personal Representative of the probate estate or accept appointment as Successor Trustee. It is important to determine who will handle the assets during the probate process. If probate is needed then a Personal Representative will need to be appointed by the probate court. Determining the executor is a delicate matter and the choice must be done keeping in mind numerous factors, including the deceased wishes and the representative's eligibility.
After naming the executor (or personal representative), the hard part begins.
The whole fortune must be evaluated. Again, this is a very sensitive and complicated process, since it involves calculating the value of the assets at the date of death. As you can imagine, this has a deep impact when calculating money in foreign currency or oversea properties. Also, now it is determined if the estate or trust will be subject to state estate taxes, state inheritance taxes, and/or federal estate taxes. Then, the executor will need to pay the decedent's final bills and the expenses of administering the estate or trust.
Furthermore, the executor will also file all applicable estate tax returns and/or inheritance tax returns, the decedent's final income tax return(s) and initial and final estate or trust income tax returns. And it must do that as fast as possible, in order to avoid penalties.
And the final step is to distribute the money and assets to beneficiaries. After all debts and takes are paid, of course.