Estate Settlement Process Steps

The estate settlement process by Simmons & Schiavo is a trademarked seven step process. These steps are designed to help guide you through probate and trust administration. Below is an overview of the unique estate settlement process developed by our firm. Our team works with you on each and every step, providing necessary legal guidance and support to give you confidence and clarity throughout the process.

1 – Snapshot

The snapshot is the first step in the process and focuses on getting organized. This includes gathering necessary information and ensuring personal representatives and trustees understand their role. We help our clients through this critical first step by reviewing everything and helping to identify any missing pieces.

2 – Legal

The second step is to start the legal process. This includes the probate process, filing paperwork to officially designate the personal representative, and reviewing estate planning documents, such as the will and trust. Managing the legal process from the beginning is essential and will allow personal representatives and trustees to properly perform their duties throughout the settlement process.

3 – Assets

Identifying and managing assets can be a complex process, especially in cases of special asset classes. Assets may need to be sold, transferred, etc. Values of assets at the time of death versus when they are sold will be important for tax purposes. Important decisions will need to be made for the benefit of the estate and its heirs. Legal and financial advisors are extremely helpful in managing this important step.

4 – Creditors

Debts must also be settled as part of the estate settlement process. Personal representatives must send out notifications, pay off debts as appropriate, and clear any potential future claims. This step must be completed fully and properly, which can take time.

5 – Taxes

Before beneficiaries can receive any assets from an estate, taxes must be paid. Estates should have a unique tax ID and file and possibly be required to file an estate tax return according to legal requirements. Assistance from financial planners and tax preparers can help identify ways to minimize the tax burden for an estate.

6 – Distributions

Depending on the specific terms outlined in the estate plan, assets may be distributed to beneficiaries all at once or over time. It can include both financial and tangible assets. Additionally, it is important for personal representatives and trustees to provide beneficiaries with an accounting of assets, debts, and how everything has been managed. This reduces personal liability of the personal representative and trustee and assures beneficiaries that everything has been handled properly.

7 – Wrap Up

As a last and final step, our legal team will sit down with you to complete a final review. We answer any remaining questions that you may have regarding current and future obligations and ways that we can assist. Estate settlements can be lengthy and emotional. The wrap-up is a point of completion and serves to bring closure to the process.