Have You Recently Lost a Parent? 5 Estate Planning Tips On What to do Next

March 16, 2023
Brad Galbraith, Esq.

Have you recently lost a parent? We understand that the passing  of a parent can be devastating and sad. With the loss of your parent, have you learned that you now have a responsibility in the final affairs of your deceased parent? Are you the personal representative of the last will and testament or the successor trustee of a trust agreement? There are important responsibilities required with these roles and you may now have crucial questions that you need answered before moving forward.

As estate planning and probate attorneys, with law firms practicing in Florida, North Carolina, and Indiana, we can assist you. We would like to help you by sharing five estate planning tips on what to do after hearing you have a responsibility for the affairs of your parent after his or her death.

  1. You need to be sure you have the original estate planning documents of your deceased parent. Once you have the originals, especially of the last will and testament and/or trust agreement, meet with your estate planning and probate attorney and he will assist you in determining what to do next. These documents will let you and your attorney know whether you are named as the personal representative of the last will and testament or trustee of the trust agreement.
  2. In regard to the estate of your parent, start by finding out and making a list of all of the assets that were owned by your deceased parent. Assets like the house and car are fairly obvious, but what about stocks, checking or savings accounts, investment accounts, insurance policies or digital currency? Find out whether your deceased parent owned homes or property in other states or countries. Do not forget jewelry, antiques and artwork.
  3. Look into whether your deceased parent received a monthly or annual income and where it came from. You can check the mail and look for statements. Also, if you have access to your deceased parent’s computer you can check his or her digital accounts.  Be aware that you may have to return any money sent to your deceased parent after his or her death.
  4. Begin at once to keep track of any and all bills that are being received. Again, check the mail of your deceased parent, look at digital accounts if you have access to them, and also keep track of your expenses if you have paid for anything. This could include, but not be limited to, utilities, cable, phone, health care expenses and premiums, and expenses for final arrangements. Be sure to bring these expenses to your estate planning and probate attorney who you will be working with so he can assist you in correctly managing the estate.
  5. It is highly recommended that you consult with a qualified and experienced attorney in the area of estate planning and probate law. In your state, there are specific statutes and rules governing the matters of probate or estate administration for a last will and testament and trust administration for trust agreements. There is absolutely no replacement for experience in this area. Research and make sure you are working with a qualified estate planning and probate attorney who has significant experience in handling these probate matters for you.

With all the above said, you may be facing the opposite situation and are not named in the will or trust of your deceased parent. This may mean that you have not been assigned a role of responsibility, are only meant to be a beneficiary of the overall estate, or are not included at all for some reason. It may also mean that your parent did not take the time to create an estate plan and your parent has passed away intestate, or without a will. In this latter instance, the distribution of your deceased parent’s estate will be governed by state law.  It is still recommended that you consult with an experienced estate planning attorney with knowledge of probate law to learn more about what any of these scenarios could mean for you.

We know this blog may raise more questions than it answers. For more information about this or other planning options and how they might work for you and your family, please call our office to schedule a time to discuss this. Bear in mind, when choosing an attorney, it is important to find a legal professional who specializes in your specific legal needs. As a law firm that serves our clients in three states, we understand the unique challenges that state laws can pose. We are here to help you now, and in the future in the states of Florida, North Carolina, and Indiana.

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