Don't be overwhelmed by managing the estate of a loved one. We're here to answer each of your questions
As estate planning attorneys we know firsthand that one of the most painful experiences a person can go through is the loss of a loved one. Not only are you left with the emotional distress of their passing, you can feel overwhelmed by the myriad of arrangements and paperwork that need to be gone over. For your reference, we have put together a list of common concerns people have upon someone’s passing. This will hopefully serve as a guide for overseeing the estate of your loved one, step by step.
What is the first thing I need to do?
There are some tasks that can wait a little after a loved one has passed, but there are those that, as hard as it may be, require direct attention. Here are a few that you must take care of straight away:
Inform the family and contact a funeral director
Family members will want to know of the deceased person’s passing. Informing them not only allows them to begin their own grieving process, but can also open a network of support for you. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
Contacting a funeral director will set in motion the necessary measures that need to be taken for your loved one’s funerary arrangements. The funeral director will help you plan out both the funeral and burial, order the required certificate of death, as well as publish an obituary if so desired.
Get a hold of original legal documentation
In order to have an idea of the course that lies ahead, you’ll need to acquire certain estate planning documents in their original form. Some of these include will and trust documents as well as insurance policies. These records will let you know what to do going forward so that you may safeguard your loved one’s estate and honor their wishes accordingly.
What do I need to take care of within the first 90 days?
Contact your loved one's estate planning attorney
Though the pain of your loved one’s passing may still make even day to day tasks difficult, you must get in touch with an estate planning attorney in order to begin the management and distribution of your loved one’s estate. Your estate planning attorney should let you know beforehand what paperwork and documents you’ll need to bring in and if any other persons should be in attendance along with you.
Secure payments from insurance and employee benefit plans
Cancel credit cards and suspend any unneeded services
This step has a more tedious aspect to it, but discontinuing credit cards and unneeded services now can save you from stress and trouble down the road. Cancelling credit cards goes at the top of the list as the remaining balance under the cardholder’s name will have to be addressed. Other services and subscriptions such as cell phone plans, internet and cable, car insurance, and club memberships should also be terminated in order to avoid unnecessary payments and fees.
How do I complete the management of their estate?
Go over any remaining balances and taxes
Your loved one may still have accounts to pay off as well as taxes that need to be filed, even after they have passed away. If this is the case, get in touch with your attorney about the deceased’s remaining debt and taxes. They’ll be able to properly assess which bills need to be taken care of upfront and which can be settled through negotiations or payment options.
Partition money and properties accordingly among beneficiaries
You’ll want to begin the transfer of your loved one’s estate within the following months. Your estate planning attorney or probate lawyer should determine any and all payments contained within the estate. These can be found in a will, trust agreement, or other documented assets. Be sure to make the appropriate title changes and have the designated assets transferred to the beneficiaries the deceased has appointed.
Is my own estate plan affected by my loved one's passing?
Depending on your relationship to the deceased, the execution of their estate plan might have some bearing on your own. Get in touch with your estate planning attorney and go over key points that may have been impacted in light of your loved one’s passing. These may include naming a new executor or trustee as well as revising the allocation of assets to beneficiaries.
Additionally, though retirement accounts and insurance policies aren’t automatically contained within an estate, it’s a good idea to re-examine these as you go over your estate documents.