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What are the first things to do when probating an estate?

If your deceased loved one's estate plan named you as executor, then it will be your responsibility to probate the will. The probate process is not anyone's favorite thing to manage, but with proper guidance and an in-depth understanding of the law, you will be able to navigate your loved one's probate with greater ease.

As executor, there are some initial first steps you'll need to take, which include the following:

  • Find the will: There could be multiple copies of the will, and there could be subsequent revisions. You want to find the original one, and the original version of any subsequent or updated wills. Obviously, you will file the most recent will with the court.
  • Cancel all credit cards: You don't want anyone to get ahold of your loved one's credit cards and make fraudulent charges, so you should cancel the cards and notify the card companies of the death.
  • Change the locks and keep valuables safe: Visit your loved one's home and have all the locks changed. Also, make sure that all valuable property is safe. If it means moving some possessions to your house or to a safe deposit box, you may want to do that too.
  • Get copies of the death certificate: You'll need multiple official copies of the decedent's death certificate, and you should order these as early as possible.

There are other first steps you'll need to take as the executor of an estate that's going through probate, but these are a good place to start. Ultimately, the more you know about your role as executor and your legal obligations, the more capable you'll be of taking care of issues that arise.

Source: Kiplinger, "How to Perform the Duties of Executor of an Estate," Daniel Timins, accessed March 09, 2018

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