Most people have little experience dealing with what happens after their loved one dies and they get appointed as Personal Representative to settle the estate. Before being appointed to serve as Personal Representative, the first step in probating an estate is to locate all of the Decedent's estate planning documents and other important papers.

The Decedent's estate planning documents may include a Will, funeral, cremation, burial or memorial instructions, and/or a Revocable Living Trust. The original documents should be stored in a safe place until they can be given to the estate's lawyer.

The Decedent's important papers will include information about their assets, including bank and brokerage statements, stock certificates, life insurance policies, corporate records, car and boat titles, and deeds; and information about the decedent's debts, including utility bills, credit card bills, mortgages, personal loans, and medical bills. From these documents a list should be made of what the Decedent owned and owed, how each asset is titled (in the Decedent's individual name, as a tenant in common, in joint names, or in a trust), and, for assets and debts that have a statement, the value of the asset or debt as listed on the statement and the date of the statement. In addition, the Decedent's prior three years of income tax returns should be reviewed.

Once the decedent's important documents have been sorted through, the next is to meet with a lawyer to open the estate with the probate court.

If you've been named Personal Representative of someone's estate and have questions about how the probate process works, give us a call at 253.858.5434 to find out how we can be of service.