How to start taking care of an estate?
July 5, 2008 2:59 PM   Subscribe

My grandfather died, leaving my father as co-executer of his estate. What are the first steps that my father needs to take?

My grandfather died in the hospital yesterday. His wife passed away several years ago, so all of the responsibilities of handling the financial, legal, and burial side of affairs fall to my father and his siblings. My father is the co-executer of the will, along with the daughter of my grandfather's late wife, and is overwhelmed by the number and weight of the matters that need to be dealt with. There is the burial to attend to, pets that now don't have an obvious caretaker, a house that isn't in great shape and contains a good deal of stuff to take care of, plus whatever financial accounts to close.

It's a lot to be stuck with all of a sudden, especially on top of the emotional weight. What are the first steps he should take? I imagine there are people (lawyers? accountants?) that need to be contacted and know what to be done, but who they are isn't obvious right now.
posted by Schismatic to Human Relations (6 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: I see that there are a couple of questions like this already, but neither seemed to deal with the how to start working on the responsibilities of being the executer of the will. If it matters, my grandfather was living in California.
posted by Schismatic at 3:04 PM on July 5, 2008

Lawyer, wills and trusts.
posted by By The Grace of God at 3:06 PM on July 5, 2008

I'm sorry about your grandfather's death. My mom is in B.C., and found this brochure useful: - much of it is specific to the province, but some may be useful. The organization that published it also has one called "Choosing an Executor, Being an Executor" that may also be a starting point.

Good luck to your father - it seemed to take my mom and her sister ages to sort everything out.
posted by Eey at 5:39 PM on July 5, 2008

I think Nolo Press is a pretty reliable source of legal information. You can start with the duties of the executior here. They recommend this book titled "The Executor's Guide: settling a Loved One's Estate or Trust.
posted by metahawk at 6:31 PM on July 5, 2008

I am a lawyer who will offer comments (not legal advice) from a distance.

He should contact a lawyer in his town to discuss what should be done. In the meantime, he should:

- contact those who have a family interest to ensure that they are included in any discussions and to take care of those things (pets, funeral arrangements) that need immediate attention and cannot wait for a court proceeding. Whoever pays for the funeral will get (in most states) a priority on repayment from the estate.
- review his records to get information about his financial affairs.
- think about and, at the appropriate time, ask the interested family members to think about what should be done about the other stuff, including the home.

Other than the things that demand immediate attention, the focus should be on people, not on money. But family members may pipe up about money sooner than they should, so he and his co-executor should be prepared.
posted by yclipse at 8:09 PM on July 5, 2008

The first steps are to sort out what's necessary for those still living, in this case to make sure the pets are ok and that all family members stay (relatively) sane. And, depending on how long the deceased was in hospital, throwing out all perishable food products and buying some long-life milk.

The next are to do what's necessary for the deceased, the funeral and so on. No idea about your local laws, but someone at the hospital will know what has to be done about registering the death; they probably have someone whose job it is to explain this kind of stuff to you. If the Will contains specific burial instructions, that's a bonus. If not and someone has to deal with funeral directors, try to make sure someone - a friend or less-close family member - who's unlikely to be guilt-tripped by a salesperson goes along too.

Everything else can wait. If necessary, someone may have to be paying the electric bill and so on for your grandfather's house; if so, keep proof of who paid it and get the money back later. If people crawl out of the woodwork demanding money or possessions, tell them politely but firmly to go away. Everything will be dealt with in time, and right now it is not the time.

Two of my close relatives are executors of my grandmother's estate, in another country than you, and three months in they've got the Executor's Account set up and got most of the relevant money in it but no bequests paid out (this whole system may well be different in your case so there's no point in my trying to explain it!). They've sorted out some of the house full of stuff, paperwork and rubbish, but nowhere near all of it. They have no idea what to do about some of it and they've discovered some things they never knew about their family. And this is all ok.
posted by Lebannen at 6:13 AM on July 6, 2008

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