Estate administration is about more than just responding to creditors' claims against the estate. As a recent article reminds us, the number of administrative tasks may indeed seem overwhelming. For a loved one who has been named as an executor, we recommend that he or she consult with an estate-planning attorney for assistance.
The reason is illustrated by a sample to-do list: probating a will, closing bank and investment accounts, closing credit cards, overseeing the disposition of transfers to designated heirs, paying bills and taxes, collecting any benefits due the estate, and responding to any correspondence mailed to the deceased or the estate.
A savvy estate plan may take a proactive approach to easing an intended executor's administrative burdens. That process may include setting aside funds for the cost of the funeral and final taxes or bills, as well as taking a number of probate avoidance strategies. For example, an individual could use transfer on death beneficiary designations where available, allowing an account to transfer directly to the named beneficiaries instead of going through probate. Any assets transferred into a trust may also be considered non-probate property.
An estate plan may include measures to account for incapacity during the grantor's life. For example, a power of attorney can designate someone to handle financial affairs in the event of the grantor's incapacity. Naming a loved one as a co-account holder may also circumvent administrative delays and even avoid probate over specific assets. However, to the extent there are other heirs, it may seem unfair that the co-account holder becomes the sole owner upon the grantor's death. A co-owner may also have to share in tax liability of that account.
Source: Consumerist, "The Grim But Necessary Art Of Closing Accounts For Dead Family Members & Loved Ones," Ashlee Kieler, March 31, 2016