Legacy Law Group Of Northern Virginia, PLLC.

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8567 - D Sudley Road Manassas, VA 20110

Legacy Law Group Of Northern Virginia, PLLC.

Call For A Consultation

(571) 660-4545

Office Location

8567 - D Sudley Road Manassas, VA 20110

Legacy Law Group Of Northern Virginia, PLLC.

Are You The Fiduciary? 12 Immediate Tasks To Protect The Estate

  • By: David B. Wilks
  • Published: May 25, 2017
Are You The Fiduciary? 12 Immediate Tasks To Protect The Estate

If your loved one is terminally ill or recently passed on, it is natural to feel overwhelmed by many new responsibilities. Near the top of that list may be serving as the fiduciary of your loved one’s estate.

As experienced estate planning attorneys, we are privileged to assist individuals going through such difficult, stressful times. It is important that they, and you, take the first step as soon as possible, which is to fully understand the fiduciary responsibilities.

After that, there are several tasks to address quickly in order to preserve the loved one’s estate.

Your responsibilities as fiduciary

Your role as fiduciary is separate from any other role you may have, like surviving spouse, beneficiary or heir. You will be held accountable for your decisions and actions during the time the estate is under administration.

This is true whether you are the trustee under a trust, the personal representative under a probate estate or have simply assumed certain duties to wind up the affairs of someone else.

Once you have accepted position of fiduciary, you are responsible for the administration of an estate and you should not turn over the complete administration of the estate to others.

This does not mean that you must actually perform all of the administrative work yourself–you may delegate certain administrative details to qualified people, such as an experienced estate planning attorney. However, the responsibility for the administration of the estate always remains with you as fiduciary.

Know that if your loved one did not have an estate planning attorney, you may–and probably will want to–engage an experienced, local attorney to assist you in administering the estate.

Important initial steps

As the fiduciary, you are entrusted with all duties and responsibilities to wind up the personal affairs of someone who has died. While your final responsibility will involve distributing estate property to the beneficiaries, a number of other administrative steps are required before the estate is ready to be distributed.

You should obtain the necessary paperwork to demonstrate to third parties that you are authorized and empowered to act. This may require the preparation of an Affidavit of Successor Trustee under a trust administration, or Letters Testamentary or Letters of Administration under a probate estate.

Your first duty as fiduciary is to protect and preserve the assets of the estate. You should put together an inventory of all assets and their values at the time of the death.

Next, you should begin to collect the assets belonging to the decedent’s estate, within the limits permitted by your powers as fiduciary.

Act quickly on next steps

The following12 essential tasks should be done quickly to preserve the estate. There are others as well, but this will get you started.

  1. Remove valuables from the residence and store safely.
  2. Complete a change of address form with the post office to have the decedent’s mail forwarded to you.
  3. Determine whether it is appropriate to change locks on any property not occupied by the spouse or a primary beneficiary.
  4. Determine immediate cash needs for any beneficiary; identify accounts where cash is immediately available; determine if any immediate expense must be paid. (Hint: There are not many.)
  5. Cancel credit cards, charge accounts and magazine subscriptions and ask for refunds, if possible.
  6. If you can gain access to the decedent’s safe deposit box, do not remove contents until it has been inventoried in the presence of a bank officer – only then should contents be removed.
  7. Gather personal records, including checkbooks and statements for at least three years; obtain copies of income tax returns for last three years.
  8. Contact individuals who owe money to the decedent and arrange for continued collection.
  9. Determine whether the decedent had an interest in a partnership, Limited Liability Company, closely held corporation or other active business interest and arrange for continued operation and safeguarding of the decedent’s interest in the business.
  10. Gather all life and accident insurance policies. (Don’t forget to check travel clubs, alumni associations, credit card companies, trade associations and any organization that might make life insurance available to its members.)
  11. Contact Social Security and VA if applicable.
  12. Hold any Social Security received after date of death, as the Social Security Administration will recall any benefits paid during the month of the decedent’s death.

While the role of fiduciary may be overwhelming, take comfort in the fact that an estate planning attorney can assist you in the administration of your duties. An experienced attorney will help to ensure all required tasks are completed effectively and comprehensively.

Experienced guidance

If you are facing the role of fiduciary, call upon Legacy Law Group to put our 25+ years of experience to work for you from our convenient locations in Manassas and Stafford in Northern Virginia.

Our attorneys have been named Legal Leaders by Virginia Business Magazine year after year, and have been reviewed by fellow attorneys to be among the top 1% nationally to earn the Preeminent distinction for legal expertise, ethics and professionalism by Martindale-Hubbell. Find our more about our qualifications here.

Give us a call or email, and let us assist you in fulfilling the responsibilities that your loved one left in your good care.

This blog/web site is made available by Legacy Law Group of Northern Virginia for educational purposes only, not to provide specific legal advice. By using this blog site you understand that there is no attorney client relationship between you and the Legacy Law Group of Northern Virginia or Vanderpool, Frostick & Nishanian, P.C. This blog should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a licensed professional attorney in your state.

David B. Wilks, Esq.

David Wilks has practiced law in Northern Virginia and
Prince William County for more than thirty years as
a tax lawyer by training and education. Read More