The loss of a loved one is quite emotional; it could become a large responsibility if you are the person responsible to settle the estate left behind by the deceased. However, it needs to get done it will really help to know some of the important issues relating to settling an estate.
Primarily, examine the laws in your jurisdiction that relate to estates. These vary vastly from state to state but the basic principles of law and the procedures remain more or less similar. To settle an estate, check to see if the deceased left behind a will. That makes it easier to settle since you have directions to follow. Hopefully, these also include steps not only for disposal of assets but will also provide for fulfillment of taxes outstanding and obligations that remain after the deceased's passing on. Of course, take care to ascertain that the will is the final one and that it has been executed by the deceased in his or her full conscience, knowledge and sanity. If not, then it leads to possible conflicts among beneficiaries that could turn rather unpleasant.
Next, collate documents and information on all dealings, transactions and properties of the deceased. Check to see if taxes on income, property are pending to be paid and provide for them. Next, check to see if there are any secured loans payable and outstanding. Sometimes, credit card debt that is outstanding and other similar unsecured debts are waived upon the card-holder's death. Check the card issuer or lender's terms and conditions. Check for all deposits held by the deceased; gain access to safe deposit boxes and record their contents.
Make a clear and complete inventory of all the assets, properties, cash deposits and belongings of value to the deceased. Intimate the banks and financial institutions; intimate tax authorities; intimate local administration who will then make necessary entry in their records. This is not only necessary in the interest of the deceased's estate but also to ensure there are no chances for an identity theft later on. Also intimate the insurance companies and start the process of collecting proceeds from the insurance held by the deceased.
If you have found a will, then make arrangements to get it probated at the proper court. Here it is helpful to seek the services of a legal counsel to ensure proper compliance with applicable laws. If there is no will, the property will pass on to the next of kin or legal heirs of the deceased. If you are one of the beneficiaries, either under a will or as a legal heir and if there may be other claimants to the properties, it is in your best interest to involve trustworthy and third-party people as witnesses to all of your actions. This will help demonstrate your intent and actions, should you be questioned anytime.
Some state tax laws require a final tax return to be submitted by the heirs or survivors of the deceased. For purposes of efficient tax planning on the proceeds and distribution and also to ensure compliance of laws it is advisable to retain the services of a certified accountant and of a lawyer to assist you in the process.