Grieving for a loved one can be difficult, and it may seem best to handle their affairs as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, estates can be complex puzzles, and it could take plenty of work before you can declare the process finished.
It takes an average of 16 months to settle an estate. This number can grow depending on how much an estate is worth, how complicated the assets are and perhaps most importantly, how prepared you are as an executor.
As the representative for the estate, you will need to take many steps on the way to settling things:
- Counting: You’ll need to take stock of what the deceased left, from investments to real estate. There may be a list of what they owned, but it’s likely up to you to double-check property and make sure you’ve accounted for everything.
- Notifying: It will usually be on your shoulders to inform anyone invested in the proceedings. You may have to determine who has a claim and do a little homework to track down interested parties. This could include family members, beneficiaries and creditors that have a stake in the estate.
- Settling: Once you have amounts and names, it will likely be time to start setting things straight. Using instructions from the will or following state law, you’ll need to hand out the property in your control. Handling remaining income, doling out inheritance or refuting claims are likely your responsibility.
You may have a blueprint for the estate if you have a will and other planning documents, but that is often just the beginning. Settling the estate can be a long and complex process, but it’s essential that you perform your duties as accurately and thoroughly as possible.