The Elder and Disability Law Firm, APC May 10, 2018

California residents who have been designated as executors of an estate will want to consider the following tips toward making the process easier. As long as the executor is methodical and organized, the tips will not be hard to follow.

First, executors will want to request multiple copies of the death certificate to send to banks, life insurers and, if applicable, organizations like the VA and SSA when notifying them of the death. Secondly, they should obtain a copy of the will and/or trust documents: the former must be filed with the probate court, while the latter can be used for the immediate disbursement of trust assets.

By this point, hiring professionals like attorneys and tax accountants is a good idea. The fourth tip applies to probate: executors must make sure to receive letters testamentary from the court proving their authority over the estate. Locating and protecting the assets, from bank accounts to real property to business partnerships, is the next step.

Executors must then determine if the assets will cover all taxes and debts that remain to be paid. If the decedent didn't keep track of monthly bills, executors can start by combing through the checkbook, tax returns and pertinent emails. Lastly, they should never rush the process. They should create a separate filing system for every piece of paperwork.

Those who are planning their estate will, for their part, want to make things as clear as possible for the executor and other parties. Fortunately, there are attorneys who can assist with the planning process as well. They can help set up simple wills or wills combined with trusts, which normally avoid the probate process. They can also set up powers of attorney for those who want to designate a proxy to make health- or finance-related decisions in case they become disabled.

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