Phase One: Estate Opening
When people often talk about an estate administration, they often talk about Probate. While probate is not necessary to each and every estate administration (read more about that here), phase one includes the "probate part" of the process. Probate is the legal process of proving the validity of a will and appointing an Executor (or “Personal Representative,” as it is referred to in some states) to manage the estate.
However, there is much more beyond Phase One than probate. This phase also includes obtaining death certificates, notifying relevant parties, and opening an estate account. Think of Phase One as the phase where you are collecting the information and beginning to create the picture of the estate (i.e., who are the key players, what are the key documents, etc.).
During Phase One, the presumed Executor, Personal Represenatitve (PR), or Administrator will also apply for the grant of probate or letters of administration (if there is no will) in order to have the legal authority to manage and make decisions regarding the estate and the assets of the deceased.
As the professional, you will be working with the Executor/presumed Executor to notify the beneficiaries, heirs, and creditors that the probate process has begun. During this phase, as the professional, it is important that you set expectations for the Executor as to what their role and responsibilities will be during this process. It is equally important that you level set with the Executor (and family members if need be) that an estate administration can be a lengthy process, regardless of how ‘simple’ or ‘straightforward’ an Executor or family member may believe it will be.