Dealing with the death of a loved one is never easy. It doesn’t matter if it’s a spouse, parent, child, grandparent, or another relative or friend — all you want to do is curl up into a ball, shut out the world, and grieve. And yet, your loved one left behind a detailed will, and you have this inescapable feeling that you should put aside your emotions and tirelessly work through a long list of estate planning to-dos. This is especially true if you’re the executor, and you may even ask yourself, “What do I do next?”
From an estate planning and probate attorney perspective, there are things you could be doing to clean up your loved one’s affairs. We are here to help every step of the way, and many of those next steps depend on your loved one’s estate and their final wishes. But make no mistake about it — it is OK to wait to handle certain tasks.
You and your family deserve time to process this unimaginable loss — and that takes time.
The good news, too, is that if your loved one has a valid will, they’ve taken a lot of the guesswork out of the equation.
Here’s what to do next!
Please keep in mind that your exact to-do list when a loved one dies depends on several factors and could be more detailed than below. But once you have taken the necessary time to grieve, this list should steer you in the right direction.
1. Set up a consultation with an attorney that specializes in estate planning and probate- they should be able to put your mind at ease by guiding you through the next steps.
2. Obtain legal documentation of death — Obtaining the death certificate is one of the first things you’ll want to do, as this is an important item to have on hand for accessing bank and other financial accounts, filing life insurance claims, etc.
3. Notify necessary parties — Obviously, people like immediate and extended family as well as close friends need to know the sad news. But don’t forget co-workers and employers, financial advisors, bankers, social security, and life insurance companies.
4. Make final arrangements — It’s important to make funeral plans in accordance with your loved one’s wishes as soon as possible. For example, they may want to be cremated rather than proceed with a traditional burial, or they may only want a small memorial.
5. Find the will — Hopefully, your loved one shared exactly where their will is located and how to access it. Having access to the will as the executor provides further insight into burial directives and other final wishes that need to be carried out.
6. Carry out your loved one’s wishes — This may take time. Even if there is a legal will in place, most families still have to go through the probate process administering an estate and legally transferring a deceased person’s assets and property to their family members or beneficiaries. Having a will helps the court easily determine ownership and beneficiaries since everything is spelled out.
7. Settle the estate — Your estate planning attorney can also walk you through this process, which can include paying off debts and, in some cases, resolving who gets custody of minor children.
What if your loved one died without a will?
Your loved one’s assets could possibly go through the probate process even if they have a will in place. But if they didn’t have one, the court is forced to figure out who the legal heirs of the estate are. There is no documentation from the deceased that explains who their family is and what their wishes are. As you can imagine, dying intestate can make an already overwhelming probate process even more complicated. If you need help with this or any other issue, do not hesitate to call us.
At Caitlyn Ashley Law in Denton, TX, we have devoted our lives to helping our clients and their families navigate any estate planning need or situation. Call us today!
Call Caitlyn Ashley Law today!!
Having a plan for the future is the most important gift you can give yourself and your family. Granted, none of us will ever know for sure what is around every corner in life. And just thinking about the what-ifs — what if I were to die or become incapacitated tomorrow; what if my child with special needs has no one to care for her; what if all my “stuff” isn’t passed onto the right people — can be overwhelming. But having a plan that accounts for your family’s unique circumstances, puts your affairs in order, has concrete solutions to your concerns, lays out your wishes and goals, and protects your family’s future provides peace of mind for the road ahead.
Caitlyn Ashley Law in Denton, Texas, Will counsel you on which documents are best suited for your needs and ensure they are flexible enough to meet your changing needs for years to come.