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Winding Up Legal Affairs After Death

Dying is a part of life that can be tough on everyone involved—both individually and as a family unit. And while that might seem like the toughest part of losing a loved one, sometimes what comes after can be just as tiring and overwhelming, if not more so. So, if it’s up to you to take care of your loved one’s affairs, the tips in this article are for you. Let’s get started.

While you may be thinking you should get started right away, the first thing you need to know is that it doesn’t have to start the second the person passes away. Losing someone you were close to is an incredibly painful time, and it’s important to take that time to grieve when you need to. Though, you should also make it a point to see a trusts and estates attorney no more than a month following death. In a best-case scenario, this person will also be the same one who created the will and set up an irrevocable living trust.

When the process does get rolling, you’re going to want to get a copy of the decedent’s estate plan documents—like the will and trust (if there is one).  Many times, the attorney will have a copy or will have one in a safety deposit box. Next, make sure to make that appointment with the trusts and estates attorney in the same state where the deceased lived. Things like the will and any other estate plan documents will have been made according to that state’s particular laws, and you’ll need an attorney licensed in that state to help you get through the process.

The next step is to pay the attorney from the estate of the deceased. Many trusts and estates attorneys will charge by the hour for this work, and anywhere in the range of $200 to $500 an hour is normal for you to expect. If the estate has to pass through probate, many states will give the attorney payment on a sliding scale based on any assets in the estate, and only then, by obtaining court approval.

In your first meeting with the lawyer, he or she will explain to you what’s expected of you if you are the trustee of the trust or executor of the estate. The first thing you’ll likely do is obtain copies of the death certificate and a statement of any assets and liabilities. This will include a listing of all bank accounts, assets, life insurance policies, annuities, and investments, and any outstanding debts. You’ll also want to start receiving monthly statements on any accounts, so you can estimate their value on the day of death.

If the person happened to forget to put an asset in the trust, the attorney could potentially have to go to court to have it put in. If there are any assets for heirs, it’s simple. However, if the estate plan calls for sub-trusts (to hold for future generations or control distribution to beneficiaries), then they’ll need to be drafted and funded, which means a change of titles on assets. These trusts will then need to be given and invested appropriately by you, since you are the trustee.

If you or someone you love needs assistance with Elder Care law issues, call 856-281-3131. Let us help ease your stress and give you a plan.


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