Estate Plan Is Done but Is the Job Finished?

As life progresses, an estate plan often becomes even more important to you and your family.

As a person’s life progresses and the difficulties that can arise do, they are often motivated into creating an estate plan but that isn’t necessarily the end of the story, according to the Brentwood Home Page in “The will and estate plan are done, what now?”

 However, once the will and the estate plan are done, the process doesn’t stop, even in the face of an urgent situation. There are still tasks that must be done, and perhaps the most important one of all is talking with family members about the plan, where it is and what your wishes are.

Many families get started on their estate plan in the attorney’s office, discussing what they want to happen to their assets, who their executor should be and how they want their end-of-life decisions to be made. However, they find it difficult to discuss with their children, and as a result, when the first parent passes, the only one who knows what the plan is (and where it is) is the surviving spouse.

Will the adult children know where to find the documents, if the surviving spouse is so bereft that he or she is not functioning well? Will the surviving spouse or the children know what the next steps should be?

Will the person who was designated the executor know that this is their role? That’s never a good thing to learn about at the last minute.

Once you’ve completed your estate plan and other related documents, don’t leave out this critical next step. The executor and those left when you (or your spouse) have passed have a big job ahead of them, and you don’t want to make it harder.

It can take months or sometimes years to settle an estate. Here are a few facts to be aware of:

  • Wills and estate plans are not filed with the court before death. The estate planning attorney may have a copy, but the court will want the original documents.
  • The executor will need original death certificates.
  • An attorney, possibly the same one who created the estate plan, will be able to guide you through the settlement of the estate.
  • Once the will is probated and the executor is appointed, beneficiaries will need to be named and creditors notified.
  • The decedent’s property will need to be managed. This can be tricky if he or she owned a business, rental properties or other assets that require on-going management.
  • Final tax returns must be filed.

This is not a simple process and you may try to handle it yourself. However, is that a good idea? Probably not, but an estate planning attorney can advise you in creating an estate plan that fits your unique circumstances.

Reference: Brentwood Home Page (Oct. 31, 2018) “The will and estate plan are done, what now?”