When you pass away, there are many important tasks that need to be taken care of as soon as possible. It can often be overwhelming or confusing for family members to figure out what to do, particularly if they cannot locate your documents or are unaware of what you wanted to happen with regard to funeral and burial planning.
There is no one-size-fits-all answer when it comes to opening probate, but the truth is that this should be done by an intended or appointed personal representative as soon as possible after you pass away. In many cases, it makes sense for family members and friends to consider the grieving process before jumping into the legal and administrative aspects of death. That being said, an executor or personal representative doesn’t have the appropriate authority to act on behalf of the estate until they have been formally appointed.
There’s not much that the that a probate lawyer or an appointed personal representative is able to do until the death certificate has been issued and until probate has been opened. It may be a good opportunity to review and look for any and all documents that the deceased might have created, including their will and any other important paperwork, such as deeds or location information about a safety deposit box. Notifying the person you intend to appoint as executor or personal representative is strongly recommended to increase the chances that they will be able to spring into action relatively quickly.
If you don’t yet have your estate set up, talk to an experienced estate planning attorney about your options. A lawyer can advise you about what to expect and how to create a comprehensive estate plan to match your goals.