After someone dies, their estate needs to be administered. Estate administration is the process by which the assets of the person who died are distributed. If they did not leave instructions, there are default rules in each state that are followed. It can be hard to handle the aftermath of a loved one’s death. Whether you have to probate their will, be a trustee, or help the personal representative or trustee with their duties, this period of time is challenging. As you face this season, here are five tips for how to handle it:

Determine Your Role in Estate Administration

First, determine what role you may play in the coming months. Have you been named as the executor or personal representative of the deceased’s will or the trustee of their trust? To succeed in these roles, you must understand the responsibilities and expectations. Here are some practical steps to help you.

If you’re not named as representative or trustee, but you’re a close friend or family member, you can still help and support them. They will have a lot of responsibility in the days ahead.

It is important to note that just because the will says you are the executor doesn’t mean you have to accept the role. You do have a choice in the matter. If you choose not to be the executor, the court will appoint someone else to carry out those responsibilities.

Know Your Options

The way someone’s wishes are fulfilled after they die can vary based on their estate plan, assets, and circumstances. Estate administration can feel complicated because there are tasks to complete but no exact formula for each case. No two estate administration cases are the same because each person lives a very individual life specific to them. You will need to understand your different options for accomplishing your end goal.

Also, once you begin the process, details can arise that require you to change your approach. The strategy can be very subject to change, depending upon what comes up as you sort through the deceased’s assets. As you uncover more information, you may need to reroute. This is one reason why we always recommend you consult an estate attorney to walk with you as you sort through and take care of things.

Reach Out for Support

Digging into the minute and private details of your loved one’s life can be very emotional for many people. As you sort through assets, it can feel as if you are reducing your cherished loved one to numbers because of the information the court and other professionals are requiring. We encourage you to reach out to other family members and close friends who love the deceased and to lean on one another for support as you grieve, remember, and try to move forward in the process.

Expect It to Take Time

The estate administration process can take months and, depending on how complicated the estate is, even years. With professional help, you can reduce that time, but certain aspects of the process just take time. Understanding this at the outset will help you as you navigate the various steps and to-dos.

Talk to an Estate Administration Attorney

Estate administration is specific to an individual, multi-faceted, and often not straightforward. The steps you need to take depend on many factors. It is always best to get help from a professional who can advise you throughout the process. As an estate firm, we help people with the estate administration process every day. Give us a call. We would love to help you!

Joshua E. Hummer, Esq. is the founder of Relational Estate & Elder Law, and he has been a practicing attorney for over 15 years. While experienced in many parts of the law, Josh specializes in estate planning, estate administration, and elder law. He is licensed in both Virginia and West Virginia. Josh’s passion lies in helping people gain peace of mind about the future through holistic legal planning. When he isn’t meeting with clients or crafting legal documents, Josh enjoys spending time with his lovely wife, Jill, and their four vibrant children.


Disclaimer: The information you obtain in this post is not, nor is intended to be, legal advice. This blog shares general best practices when navigating Virginia or West Virginia law, but you should consult an attorney for advice regarding your individual situation.