1. Gather Information
What the decedent owned and owed as of his or her death drives much of the administration process. Taking the time now to gather financial statements, tax returns, deeds, titles, insurance policies, and appraisals will help ensure a smooth administration process. Contact us today for a copy of our Estate/Trust Administration Questionnaire to help you gather the information you will need.
2. Governing Documents
Depending upon the information gathered in Step 1, the decedent’s Will, Trust, or in the absence of those, the North Carolina intestacy statutes, should be carefully reviewed to determine who is responsible for administering the estate or trust, and who the beneficiaries are. Depending upon the type of estate plan, the governing document and related information may need to be filed with the local Court in order to begin the administration process.
3. Creditor Claims
Before assets can be distributed to beneficiaries, creditors may need to be notified and any claims resolved. There may also be administrative expenses such as court fees, taxes, or medical bills that need to be paid from estate or trust assets. Claims and expenses vary in legal priority and must be paid in the correct order to avoid personal liability.
4. Tax Filings
The decedent’s final individual tax return may need to be filed for the year in which he or she died. The estate or trust may also be required to file tax returns, depending upon the amount of income generated before assets are distributed to beneficiaries.
5. Asset Distributions
Only after the previous steps are taken can assets be distributed to beneficiaries. Under the terms of the decedent’s estate plan, assets may be distributed outright or placed under the management of a trustee for the long-term protection of a beneficiary. Once assets are distributed and any final court or tax filings made, the estate or trust can be closed.