There are many legal matters that must be attended to following the death of a loved one. A family doesn’t want to be forced to learn the legal process, especially if a loved one has been left to oversee all the deceased’s affairs. Hiring a lawyer to assist with finalizing your loved one’s affairs isn’t required, but will make the process easier.
An executor is the personal representative of someone’s estate. Following someone’s death, the executor is in charge of taking control of the assets, paying off any debts and distributing other assets to the beneficiaries per the terms and conditions of the will.
A will is a legal document that makes the wishes of your loved one known. This document will include information about how the property and assets of someone will be distributed. In the case there isn’t a will involved, a person’s wishes may not be carried out and could lead to additional resources being spent to settle your loved one’s affairs.
The probate process begins at the Clerk of Superior Court in the deceased's county of residence. An application is submitted to the clerk by either the executor/executrix named in a will or, if there is no will or the person named in the will is not able or willing to serve, a person qualified to be an administrator.
This formal legal process gives recognition to a will and appoints the executor or personal representative who will administer the estate and distribute assets to be inherited by any beneficiaries.
A trust is a legal mechanism that allows you to put conditions or stipulations on how your assets are distributed after you die. Setting up a trust should be considered when leaving assets to someone who is underage. A revocable living trust is a document created by an individual and is used to avoid probate and protect the privacy of the trust owner and beneficiaries. There are limitations involved with a revocable trust, like the expense of having them written up and the fact they lack many features of an irrevocable trust.
How a bank account is handled after someone’s death varies from region to region. In some states, a bank account is frozen immediately after someone’s death. Either way, the family or executor of someone’s estate should notify the bank immediately following the death. A Certified Copy of a Death Certificate will be required to take someone’s name off an account.
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What needs to be done after the funeral?
Notify life insurance agencies and obtain claim forms. We will be happy to provide this service for you.
We will provide the Social Security office with form SSA-72 to notify them of the death.
Check with fraternal or union memberships, as well as the Veterans Administration to see if any death benefits are available.
Notify utility departments (electric, telephone, gas, water, etc.) to change billing information or discontinue service.
Contact credit card companies to notify them of the death. Some companies include insurance on their accounts to pay off any outstanding balance.
Stop coverage for the deceased on any health insurance plans. Some companies have a death benefit rider, so make sure you ask when you contact them.
Notify banks, investment companies, and pension or retirement accounts.
Determine outstanding debts, etc. Credit life insurance coverage may be available on some loans.
You may need to file an income tax return for the deceased, as well as an estate income tax if the estate itself generates any income.
Obtain the will and contact the deceased’s attorney and the executor.
Call your car insurance company. Lower rates may be available for the surviving spouse.
Contact any life insurance companies that may have the deceased listed as beneficiary. You will need to update your beneficiary information. This will make things easier for you in the future.
Additional questions may be answered by contacting the Clerk of Court in the county where the deceased resided.
This list is not intended to be complete, and the items listed above may not apply in all cases. You should contact your attorney or financial adviser for specific advice regarding your individual situation.
Procedures for bank accounts following death vary regionally. In some areas, bank accounts are automatically frozen after a death. To avoid any complications, the bank should be notified immediately. The bank employees will guide you through the next steps from there.
A certified death certificate is frequently necessary in the wake of a death. A death certificate can be obtained through a funeral director. It is a good idea to obtain multiple copies of a death certificate, as many agencies require a certified certificate and not a photocopy.
Everyone knows they should have a will, but the vast majority – about 70% of us – do not. Writing a will is easy and inexpensive, and once you are done you can rest easy, knowing your hard-earned money and property will be distributed according to your wishes, and that your loved ones will be taken care of in your absence.
Probate is the legal process that transfers the ownership of property from the estate of the deceased to their beneficiaries. During the probate process, the executor of your will goes before the courts and identifies all the property you owned, appraises the property, pays all debts and taxes, proves that the will is valid and legal, and distributes the property according to the instructions of the will.
An executor is the personal representative of your estate. They are the person in charge of taking control of your assets, paying off any debts, and distributing assets to your beneficiaries per the terms and conditions of your will.
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