Estate agents are people assigned to oversee estate settlement procedures when a person dies. In most cases, people are appointed through a last will and testament, but might be confirmed through probate court to act on behalf of the estate.
State laws require estate agents to be of legal age and prohibit anyone with a criminal record from engaging in estate settlement procedures. The person chosen for this position should be capable of making sound decisions on behalf of the estate and rightful heirs. They should be good with finances and capable of providing detailed accounting reports, as well as being proficient with recordkeeping.
Choosing a personal representative to handle final affairs is an important decision. There are times when relatives feel slighted if they aren't chosen. Others don't want the responsibility or don't have the time required to settle an estate. Therefore, it's always a good idea to talk to the individual before designating them within the last Will.
It can be beneficial to designate two estate agents. This provides a backup plan in the even the first appointed agent is incapable of fulfilling duties and eliminates the need for court confirmation.
While relatives are usually the first choice, there are times when hiring a neutral third party to engage in estate administration duties is a better option. If substantial animosity is present, hiring a probate attorney can aid in minimizing the potential for family disputes over inheritance from happening.
When relatives start to argue over inheritance gifts there is a very real potential that someone will end up contesting the Will. This is an expensive process that can force estate agents to sell estate assets to cover costs of legal defense fees. The only thing that comes from contesting is Will is making lawyers richer and creating a family divide.
Estate agents may be put in the position of mediator, so if there is chance of arguments to occur it's smart to appoint someone who can defuse situations and help relatives negotiate to prevent legal action against the estate.
The majority of estates are settled via probate. This process is mandated across the country and can take several months to complete. Writing a Will can expedite the probate process and make estate settlement procedures easier for the personal representative.
When individuals pass away without writing a Will the probate process can be prolonged by several months. The court will appoint an estate agent who is responsible for locating rightful heirs. Normally, this isn't an issue, but if relatives have disassociated from the family it can take weeks or months to track them down.
Estate agents are also responsible for contacting creditors to close out outstanding accounts. If decedents receive government benefits through Social Security, Veterans Administration, or Medicare the agent must contact agencies to notify of the death.
Throughout probate, estate agents must safeguard estate assets. Valuable property needs to be appraised to determine amount of inheritance tax. Additionally, agents are responsible for filing a final tax return on behalf of the decedent.
Another aspect of estate settlement is when inheritance property is gifted through assigned beneficiaries. Certain types of property can avoid probate by establishing beneficiaries. These include titled property, funds held in checking and savings account, life insurance proceeds, and investment portfolios or retirement accounts.
Last, but not least, estate agents receive compensation for performed duties. The amount is determined by state probate law. Some states let agents charge an hourly rate. Others pay using a flat fee scale, while a few offer compensation as a percentage of estate value. Compensation is provided through the estate. Payment must be documented and provided to the court for approval.
Estate agents are vital when it comes to estate settlement. Before appointing a person to this role we encourage you to learn more in our estate planning and probate article library. We cover all topics related to this matter and hope to help you find the information and resources you need to make informed decisions.
Published on August 16, 2011 at 03:41 AM
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