Starting from Scratch-1
There is a lot to take in here, so, I’m breaking this up into 2 parts.
On the other hand, if you are like me, starting from scratch as Administrator, was entering more uncharted territory. Here are some basics that will be helpful. It is MUCH easier if there is a WILL and you are appointed Executor. It would be wonderful if your loved one had given you financial Power of Attorney, because it will speed the process for you.
The hospital or hospice caregiver or coroner will send the death certificate to the funeral home. The mortuary usually will get a few (10 ?) copies for you. You may need more, and they are not cheap — approximately $12 each.
If you need to get additional copies of the death certificate you can go to the Bureau of Vital Statistics. Generally, this office is part of the state Health Department.
In many cases, the funeral home will send the death certificate to the Social Security Administration. It is very important that you know that they have done this for you, because if they don’t send it, you are responsible and you need to see to this right away.
Your other family members must petition the local court (locality where the decedent lived) and unanimously agree for you to be appointed Administrator and that you have complete ability to sell any of the properties and pay the bills. This is extremely important, because if you don’t have full responsibility, then every expense (bill) that is related to the estate will have to be equally divided among the heirs — meaning that each heir is responsible for paying her/his portion of each estate related bill. This is a nightmare scenario, because it is so logistically difficult. You need to have all the control over the estate account.
The court will require that you submit an accounting of the value of the estate at the date of death.You find this amount by looking at balances in checking and savings accounts, money market accounts, as well as the valuation of cars, homes, furnishings, etc. at the time of the decedent’s passing. The best way to figure those is to look at real estate assessments, and DMV records. In the case of household furnishings, you can look at EBAY or other prominent online auction sites.
The court will require you to pay them a percentage of the total value of the estate and require you to contact a bondsman and pay a bond. Usually the court will have a list of approved bondsmen.
Once you have your “papers” (official designation and death certificate) you will need to close out all your loved one’s accounts and open an interest-bearing estate account (the fact that it is interest-bearing shows good stewardship on your part.) An estate account is one that has been assigned an IRS EIN (Employer Identification Number). I asked “my” bondsman if he had any advice (I thought he might know because he was definitely a ‘veteran’ of thus process) and he told me that I should work go to a local bank to establish the estate account. He said that smaller, local banks tended to be less bureaucratic and easier to work with than large banks.
Anyway, take the counter-checks from the previous accounts and use them to establish an interest-bearing estate account.
This estate account is CRUCIAL, because it will allow you pay the bills, the first one being the funeral home.
Here is additional information from Virginia Estate Law that gives more a detailed explanation of this process. I recommend you research your own state’s procedure for getting started. The address is: http://www.virginiaestatelaw.com/main/chapters/qualification/procedure.shtml
“Place for Qualification. The personal representative must qualify in the Circuit Court located in the City or County where the decedent resided at the time of his death, or, if the decedent did not reside in Virginia at the time of his death, where the decedent owned real estate, or other assets estate assets in Virginia.
Who May Qualify. The personal representative must be an adult (age 18 or older) and must be able to obtain surety on their bond, if required.
A personal representative my be a nonresident of Virginia, but surety is required on the bond of a non-resident personal representative, unless a resident co-fiduciary is appointed.
The Clerk must also be satisfied that the person seeking qualification is suitable and competent to perform the duties of his or her office.
Preferred Person for Qualification. If the decedent had a will, the person(s) named as personal representative(s) in the will are normally appointed.
For intestate decedents (without a will) the law provides certain preferences within certain time frames. Generally, during the first 30 days after the decedent’s death, a sole distributee of the estate, or his or her designee, has preference. After 30 days, the first distributee who applies for qualification, or his designee has preference. After 60 days the clerk may grant administration to one of more creditors of the decedent, or any other person, provided that it can be shown that appropriate efforts were made to locate the preferred parties.
Factual Information. At time of qualification, the clerk will require information about the person seeking qualification, about the decedent, an estimate of the value of assets of the decedent’s estate, a list of the decedent’s heirs at law, and other information.
The clerk will also require proof of death of the decedent in the form of a death certificate or possibly an obituary published in a newspaper, if a death certificate has not yet been obtained.
Oath and Bond. The personal representative will be required to give their oath that he or she will faithfully perform the duties of their office to the best of their judgment, and if a will is probated, that the writing is the true last will of the decedent.
The personal representative will be required to give their bond in writing to secure their oath to property perform their duties, with penalty in a monetary amount at least equal to the value of the personal estate of the decedent, and if there is a will that authorizes sale of real property, the bond amount must include the value of the real property.
Surety. Unless surety on the personal representative’s bond is waived by will, corporate surety will be required (normally issued by an insurance company) to secure the bond. There are limited exceptions for banks, very small estates, and cases where all the beneficiaries of the residuary estate are also personal representatives.”
Funerals are expensive. For a conventional funeral you can expect to pay anywhere
from $7000 – $18000 depending on the casket, any services at the funeral home, etc.
Here are some services that they may offer:
Providing facilities for memorial service or funeral
Dealing with necessary paperwork to enable burial or cremation
Providing information to family and friends
Placing obituaries in newspapers
Setting up a catered meal at another location following the funeral
Arranging special musical requests
Ordering and caring for floral tributes on behalf of family and friends
Accepting donations for named charities
Arranging for vehicles and staff for funeral and graveside services
Making arrangements for transfer of remains for funeral and burial services
Recording donations received
Keeping record of persons who attended any funeral or memorial service at the funeral home.
I am not sure about green funerals, and what is offered in conjunction with those rites, but, for me, the fact that the funeral home helped with some of the ins and outs of paperwork concerning the death certificate, etc. were extremely helpful. I had way too much on my plate as it was.
Next Up – Paying Bills, Closing Accounts and the IRS