In order to distribute the assets, you must be named as the executor of the estate.  Assuming you have this role, then you need to review your loved one’s assets and determine whether they pass automatically.  Assets held in trust, retirement accounts, life insurance proceeds and property owned jointly with another person usually pass automatically to the named beneficiary or joint owner. However, you must contact the appropriate administrative persons to inform them of the death and complete the necessary paperwork to transfer the assets.  If your loved one had assets in excess of $20,000, then the estate must be probated. The court will assist you in distributing the assets in accordance with the person’s will.  If he or she didn’t have a will, the laws of inheritance will govern. Usually, property is first given to a spouse and then to his or her children in equal shares.  You can hire a probate attorney to assist you with the probate process. You can also hire a firm that will assist you with the administrative details of executing the estate if you do not have time to do yourself.

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