Hi, my grandmother passed away recently. Because all her children live far away and I'm the only local relative, I was appointed trustee of her living trust and executor of her estate. As you can imagine, I learned a whole lot about how to manage and ultimately distribute the assets in a living trust as well as how to take probate assets through probate.
The first piece of advice I would give is to call the probate clerk at the probate court as soon after death as possible. Before an executor can do anything with probate property, he or she has to be appointed by the probate court as the "personal representative" of the deceased. I found out the hard way that you cannot just drop by the office and get that appointment letter.
At least in Fairfax County (where my grandmother lived), you have to set up an appointment. So, you need to call them first to do that. The number to call in Fairfax County is 703-246-4153. When I called, they had no appointments available until a month later. So, that delayed lots of things I could have otherwise done.
Here's helpful information about the Fairfax County, VA Probate Process. There's a nice FAQ section in there.
If the deceased lived in Prince William County, then you will need to go through probate court there. Here's the worksheet they require before your appointment Prince William County Probate Worksheet. Their phone number is 703-792-5587.
Once you have the death certificate (will receive about a week after the death) and the court appointment as personal representative/executor -- then, you can contact the various banks, insurance companies, and everyone else in order to distribute the assets to the heirs.
Fortunately, my grandmom's house and some of her bank accounts were in a living trust so I was able to put the house up for sale right away and use the funds in the bank accounts in the living trust to pay the various bills.
One of the biggest problems I had was that grandmom's stocks were held by Wells-Fargo. Unfortunately, that account was not in a living trust. So, it had to go through probate and that meant I couldn't do anything with those stocks until I was appointed executor by the court. So, for nearly two months, the stocks sat there -- with me and the heirs very nervous every day that the stock market would drop before we could sell those stocks.
I am now a big believer in living trusts!!
Of course, there was a myriad of other issues I dealt with. My grandmom had failed to pay, or even file, her income taxes the last couple years of her life. She also had stopped paying her property taxes, pending an appeal of them. She had cancelled her homeowners insurance. So, I had to deal with fixing all of that.
Then, there was the process of selling the house, cleaning it out (estate sale), continuing to manage the property (tenant in part of it), etc.
Anyway, I can't detail here everything I did and everything I learned. If anyone has any questions, just post them below and I'll answer them.
If you are a trustee or executor of an estate, I'm available to answer your questions or even help you through the process. In fact, I can even handle it all for you if you'd like. It would put my experience to good use! And, my fee would be small enough that you probably would save money as I now know good realtors, estate sale companies, insurance agents, etc.
I was amazed going through the process how different the services were that various people offered. Simply by contacting at least several service providers -- I seemed to always find someone who stood out from the rest.
Again, I'm happy to share that information with you. Use the contact form below to contact me or post your question below that.
You can read all about my executor story at How to Probate an Estate.
We'd love to hear your comments and/or opinions. If you submit them here, other visitors can read them, learn from them, rate them and comment on them. An e-mail address is not required.