Losing a parent is difficult. Your mom or dad has been there for you your entire life, teaching you, guiding you and supporting you. Now they are gone, and you not only are grieving that loss, you are in charge of settling their estate as an executor.
However, you’ve never taken on a task like settling an estate before. You have no clue where to begin. You aren’t alone. Many estate executors don’t know all the details they need to manage right away. Here are seven steps you’ll need to take to settle your parent’s estate:
- Get a copy of your parent’s death certificate. A funeral home can provide this. You’ll need it to complete a number of tasks: accessing your parent’s financial accounts, filing life insurance claims and notifying the Social Security Administration of your parent’s death.
- Submit a copy of your parent’s will with the probate court.
- Cancel any subscriptions, services or credit cards your parent had.
- Locate all your parent’s assets and debts and manage them. Your parent’s will should have documentation of their assets, yet you may need to scour their financial records to insure all their assets and debts are accounted for. You should pay off your parent’s debts before you can begin distributing their assets. If your parent didn’t specify which assets your siblings or your children and other grandchildren will receive, you will have to decide that.
- Keep detailed records of your progress and what assets you distribute, so you know what tasks you’ve accomplished.
- Make sure to pay your parent’s homeowner’s insurance premiums and auto insurance premiums until you sell this property or distribute it to a beneficiary.
- File a tax return for your parent.
Completing all your duties as the estate executor will take time – most likely close to a year. You will face challenges along the way, especially if your siblings dispute how you are settling the estate. Yet if you persevere and are fair in distributing your parent’s assets, you will know you have done the job right.