A lot of uncertainty surrounds what happens when we die and yet this need not apply to your assets. Executing a robust estate plan leaves you certain of where your assets will end up when you pass. True peace of mind in this regard requires not only having an estate plan but understanding how it works. After all, knowing what will happen when your plan is activated is needed information for designing a plan in the first place. Further, understanding the steps to administering your estate is an important part of instructing your loved ones on how to carry out their roles. Accordingly, we have prepared the outline below.

Estate Administration Step-By-Step

1. Locating the Will 

When you die, among the first things your loved ones will need to do is locate your Will. This means that first, you need to have a Will, and secondly, you need to store it in a secure place your loved ones can find. This usually means at your attorney’s law office, in a safety deposit box, or in a personal safe your loved ones can access.

If you die without a Will, your assets will pass to heirs according to your state’s intestacy laws. Often, this is a messy, conflict-ridden outcome that does not reflect your wishes which is why executing a Will is so important. 

2. Identifying the Executor

The first thing a family will want to look for in your Will is the person named executor. This information should come as no surprise as it is important to speak about such decisions before committing them to writing. Your executor then inherits a list of crucial next steps which include:

a. Obtaining copies of your death certificate.
b. Making funeral arrangements.
c. Filing your Will in probate court.
d. Communicating with appropriate parties (your estate attorney, accountant, insurance agent, etc.).
e. Locating and distributing your assets.
f. Paying ongoing expenses and debts.
g. Filing a tax return.

Some people use a trust instead of a Will to navigate the distribution of their assets. This means the process need not pass through probate court and yet a trust administrator must still oversee all decisions.

3. Navigate Any Bumps in the Road

Whether you go the Will- or the trust-based route, if you have designed your estate in consultation with an experienced estate planning attorney your loved ones should not encounter any roadblocks. Nonetheless, there are delicate issues that can cause strife if not considered and talked through ahead of time. 

When your Will is presented to probate court, a hearing will be scheduled to verify the Will and assess the capability of the executor. If you were careful to discuss the decision with your loved ones, this step is no hurdle but if family members are caught unaware or if an underlying conflict exists, an ordeal may erupt. Likewise, if the division of assets and sentimental items was not addressed while you were still living, conflict might slow the process. 

An experienced estate planning attorney will work with you to anticipate any such hiccups and ensure they do not derail the process. Drawing on past experience, they can advise you on how to address delicate issues and how to prepare documents that ensure your wishes are respected. 

To learn more about the estate administration process or any other issue related to estate planning, do not hesitate to reach out to the Deliberato Law Center either by calling (216) 341-3413 or using the contact form on our website. 


Contact the Estate Planning Attorneys at Deliberato Law Center