After someone passes away, the to-do list for the Executor or Successor Trustee grows almost instantaneously. However, first and foremost, the most important thing to do is to grieve – so often, we see the individual in charge jump into “business mode” without taking time for himself/herself first.
I compare this to the security briefing before a flight takes off – should there be a change in cabin pressure, the oxygen masks may drop down. At that point, they state you are supposed to place the oxygen mask on yourself first before assisting others. This situation is no different. Take care of yourself first – even if your sibling has his hand already out and ready to receive his inheritance.
Though, at some point, you’ll have to transition into business mode and begin checking tasks off the to-do list. But, what is on that to-do list? First, Hunter Estate & Elder Law is happy to be a resource for the individual in charge – we can connect you with other trusted professionals (CPA, financial advisor, business that helps clean out houses, auction companies, personal property appraisal, funeral homes, etc.); we can provide informational materials like checklists with what to do and when; and we are, of course, happy to sit down to discuss “what’s next” from a legal standpoint.
Is probate needed? Can things be settled privately? Is there a Trust involved? Is it fully funded or are there assets outside the Trust?
We can help with those deeper questions in a meeting, but the question we get asked often is … what do I need to do right now? The following is a helpful checklist with important tasks that should be addressed shortly after someone passes away:
- Secure the property and any valuable or sentimental personal property. We recommend changing the locks to ensure that the individual in charge is the only one with access to the property.
- Notify the post office and begin mail-forwarding to a more appropriate address. This will ensure a pile of mail does not accumulate in an unsafe place. Though, it is important to routinely check the mailbox (even after mail-forwarding) in case some pieces of mail slide by the post office.
- Locate any estate planning documents like a Last Will and Testament and/or a Living Trust. While it is not absolutely vital to immediately find the originals of such documents, copies will suffice for an attorney to look at. Though, if the originals are unable to be immediately located, let the attorney know so they are aware the originals are still “out there.”
- Notify any governmental organizations – Social Security Office, Medicare, Medicaid, and Veteran’s Administration. If an attorney assisted with seeking any of these benefits, it is advisable to let the attorney notify the organization.
- Ensure death certificates are being worked on – whether it be the funeral home taking care of this piece or the county health department. You will need death certificates to show proof that the individual has passed away.
- Schedule a meeting with an attorney that handles probate and/or trust administration – like us! When the meeting is scheduled, bring anything you feel is remotely important, but be certain to bring: any estate planning documents, copy of death certificate (if you already have one), information sheet containing beneficiary names and addresses as well as assets and debts of the deceased.
After many of the tasks above are complete, the meeting with an attorney will provide a solid game plan as to what still needs to be done and what gets added to the to-do list.
Though, even if tasks are added, what I find is having this meeting also provides a sense of relief because the individual in charge is often overwhelmed. It is our primary goal is to guide you through this difficult time – in the least difficult fashion.
If you need help with making sure that you are prepared with the proper documents, consider joining us for our upcoming workshop. Just click here for all the information.