When someone dies, the next step is opening probate so that their will can be authenticated, their debts paid and their assets distributed as their estate is settled. Most executors will enlist an attorney’s help to get them through the process.

What do you need to take with you when you go visit that attorney for the first time? Having everything together can save you some time (and a lot of stress), so here’s what you need to gather:

  • The final will of the deceased. If you happen to find more than one will, take them all to the attorney and put the issue in their hands. You don’t want to assume that the last one you found is the “correct” will until you have more information.
  • Any final letter from the deceased. Sometimes these are added to clarify a point in a will or make special requests about burial.
  • The names and contact information (phone numbers and mailing addresses) of the deceased’s heirs. Include anybody you know is named in the will and people who potentially could be named, like children and stepchildren.
  • A list of all the deceased’s assets. Include copies of any life insurance policies, bank account numbers, retirement accounts and titles to cars, trucks, boats and houses.
  • A list of all the deceased’s debts. This includes credit cards, their mortgage holder and any personal loans they may have.
  • Several copies of the certified death certificate. You will probably be able to get one from the funeral home or county fairly quickly. Because you may need them to close certain accounts, make sure that you get more than one certified copy.

Being tasked to be someone’s executor can be overwhelming, especially at first. An experienced attorney can help you understand exactly what needs to be done to settle the estate properly — with a minimum of stress for you.