Legal Articles

What to do After an Estate is Opened

By Eddie Fishman

"I have been named personal representative of an estate, now what?"

The passing of a loved one is difficult. It can be even more difficult if you are in charge of probating the decedent’s estate. After opening an estate, there are some immediate steps you can take to set yourself up for success.

First, you should acquire three documents. The first two documents will be filed by the Court once an estate is opened. The first is Letters of Appointment and the second is the order opening the estate. The Letters of Appointment are your identification card to show that you are the personal representative of the estate. Once you have both of these documents, you can apply for an EIN.

After you acquire the Letters of Appointment, the order opening the estate, and the EIN, you should do the following:

  1. Bank Account. You should open an estate bank account.  You can store the decedent’s money in this bank account before the money is distributed to the beneficiaries. You should also get a checkbook for this account. You can use this checkbook to pay estate expenses.
  2. Mail. You should have the decedent’s mail forwarded to your address. This mail can help reveal assets and debts of the decedent.
  3. Taxes. You should determine if decedent owes any past taxes and make sure they are paid.
  4. Safe Deposit Box. If the decedent has a safe deposit box, you should check it to see if there are any important documents in it. Important documents could include documentation about estate planning, assets, and debts.
  5. Vehicles. You should ensure that all vehicles in decedent’s name are secure and are not being driven. You do not want someone driving a vehicle titled in the name of the decedent and potentially creating liability for the estate.  
  6. House.  If the decedent died owning a house, you should make sure the house is properly insured. You should make sure utilities are being paid and that the house is not becoming a nuisance.  
  7. Assets and Debts. You will likely learn a lot about the decedent’s assets and debts by following the above steps.   However, you will need to do your best to locate the decedent’s assets and debts. Banks, insurance companies, credit card companies, and other institutions should provide you with information about the decedent’s assets and debts if you present them with the Letters of Appointment and order opening estate.

The above are a few immediate steps you can take when an estate is first opened. Although there will be additional work for you to do, these steps can help make the probate process more efficient. Every estate is different so I recommend that you meet with a trusted attorney to ensure that the above steps are appropriate or if any other immediate action is necessary.