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Marino on Money: June 30

READ MORE: Marino on Money: June 30
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Today, Ross Marino explains how to settle the estate after a death in the family. Settling an estate can be complicated, and you should always seek legal council. It's not uncommon for estates to take one year to settle. The first step is to take a deep breath, and realize this may take a long time. Be prepared mentally for a lot of work, and some cases, a lot of expenses. Next, start rounding up key documents. Look for financial accounts, bills, debts, insurance policies, legal documents, etc. Check bank statements for bills, which are being automatically drafted. Remember, some bills are paid quarterly or annually. Determine who the executor or executrix is, and find out if there are wills, trusts, or any other legal documents. Once again, you need to contact an attorney for legal advice. I am just mentioning some areas that are frequently addressed when settling an estate. There will be a final tax return that needs to be filed. Even after someone is deceased, they may still receive income or gains from investments. Be sure to work with a tax adviser who understands this process. You will need to order plenty of death certificates. Depending on your situation, you may need 10-20. Waiting for a death certificate can slow down the process, so please don't be stingy. There is a small fee to acquire death certificates, but I would rather have a few extra at the end of the process than run out and need to reorder. Once you started gathering documents, and you have contacted your legal and tax advisers, you can start making phone calls. I'll discuss that tomorrow.

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One more tip....

Find an attorney who will settle the estate and any probate issue for a flat fee. Avoid attorneys who charge a percentage of the estate, because if there is substantial investment income, it is in THEIR interest to drag their feet. (The longer it takes, the higher their fee.)