Someone just passed away, and you’re personal representative of the estate.
What should you do?
Prior to the initiation of any probate administration (pre-administration), there are several important issues a personal representative should address.
The relevant information you’ll want to collect is pretty standard. You’ll need the decedent’s name, address, birth date, address of primary residence at time of death, and date and location of decedent’s death.
You’ll also need to gather information about the decedent’s surviving spouse (if any), beneficiaries, and heirs.
A lot of pre-probate administration leg work involves determining who the decedent’s beneficiaries are. These beneficiaries will inherit the decedent’s property.
Obtain as much contact information about these beneficiaries as possible, such as names, addresses, phone numbers, email addresses, etc. If a formal probate administration is initiated, this information will be necessary.
The names of the decedent’s beneficiaries are typically found in the decedent’s last will and testament.
If the decedent did not have a last will and testament, it would be a good idea at that point to seek the advice of an attorney who handles probate administration.
Gather information about the nature, value, and location of assets.
Determine whether assets owned by the decedent at the time of death were solely in the decedent’s name, owned by the decedent jointly with another, or if the decedent had included beneficiary designations for such assets.
Pay careful attention to assets titled solely in the decedent’s name, as those are most likely to be subject to probate administration. Assets that are titled jointly with another and assets that have recorded beneficiary designations are typically not subject to probate administration (as such assets are not subject to the personal representative’s control).
It’s a good idea to gather information on all of the decedent’s potential creditors. Not every decedent will owe money to third parties such as credit card companies, health care providers, cable providers, cell phone service providers, etc. Should a formal probate administration be opened, these creditors will need to receive notice of the proceedings so that they can file claims in the estate.
The above tasks represent multiple important steps in the pre-administration process. But it only the tip of the iceberg.
If you have questions or want to know more about the pre-administration process, contact an elder law attorney.
Attorney Neil T. Lyons pursued a career in law for the sole purpose of helping people. His practice focuses on the area of elder law, including estate planning, trust and probate administration and guardianship. His early legal experience solidified his commitment to assisting, whenever possible, two very vulnerable groups: children and the elderly. He receives repeated recognition by various organizations for his pro bono efforts in Manatee and Sarasota counties. Neil also consistently engages in service to the legal community and joined the Luhrsen Goldberg staff in 2019.