Your Parents Passed Away Suddenly, What Do You Do About The Estate?

Your Parents Passed Away Suddenly, What Do You Do About The Estate?

When your parents passed away unexpectedly, it may have been a time of grief and sorrow for you as you tried to make some sense of what had happened. You probably had long moved out of home, and did not have much detail about their estate. With their demise, the estate becomes something you have to settle.


In your grief-stricken state, you may not be in the best of dispositions to handle estate matters after your parents passed away. Here are actionable steps you can take to manage the process, and make it more bearable.

1. Grieve. Do not rush from the funeral to your attorney’s office or to prepare for court appearances. Spend some time to be with family and come to terms with your loss. This will help you feel less overwhelmed when you have to handle your late parents’ estate. 

2. As soon as possible after your parents passed away, obtain death certificates. The certificates must be certified and you may need several copies. These certificates are required in many legal and other processes. 

3. Look for the original will left by your deceased parents. Before your parents passed away, they may have written a will and left it with their attorney or in their safe deposit box. Also get a photocopy of the will. The will appoints the executor of the estate and also helps you in facilitating settling the estate even though you are not the executor. 

4. Apply for probate from a court that is in the county your parents were living in at the time of their demise. The court must have jurisdiction over the county your parents lived in at the time of death. Attach to your application for probate your parents’ death certificate, along with a copy of their will. A small fee may be required when you submit your application. The court will process your application and notify the executor of your parents’ will of the date and time of the first hearing.

5. If your parents passed away leaving no will or trust, i.e. died intestate, their property will still be distributed to those entitled to receive it, under the law governing the particular state they lived in. A probate court will appoint an executor of the estate. 

Named Executor

· At the first probate hearing, the judge will issue an order admitting your late parent’s estate into probate. He will examine your late parents’ will to confirm its validity. If your parents passed away and their will is not valid for some reason, it will be rejected. The judge may also appoint an executor of the estate. The judge will issue legal documents to you, the named executor, that empower you to carry out this role. In case your deceased parents had any dependents, the judge will issue orders authorizing you to continue supporting the dependents from your late parents’ estate funds. 

· Collect your late parents’ mail. Since your parents passed away, their mail may continue to come in the mail box. Collecting their mail will protect their privacy and will also help you in your role as administrator of their estate. Statements of accounts and other documents relating to their property may come in the mail. Bills will also come in the mail. In a nutshell, what arrives in the mailbox can help you in the process of identifying your deceased parents’ property.

· Pay your late parents’ legitimate bills. Make the payments from their estate. These include credit card bills that your parents passed away and left outstanding, unpaid medical bills, mortgage payment invoices, cell phone and utility bills and others. Creditors should begin to be paid as soon as you are appointed trustee or executor of the estate.

· Secure your late parents home and property. After your parents passed away, their home may be left unoccupied. This may allow for easy access to family members and others. Secure their property, by keeping the house locked. Change locks to the doors if necessary. There may be pricey personal property in the house that unauthorized persons may access and carry away. This property is such as antiques, art pieces, furniture and other valuables. Also, personal effects such as documents, clothing and jewelry should be kept secured until the final settlement of the estate.

· Inform credit reporting agencies and credit card companies that your parents passed away. This protects against someone fraudulently using your deceased parents’ credit cards, names or social security number to apply for credit. You also notify the credit card companies of your intent to close the accounts. 

· Inform their employers. If both or one of your parents passed away while still employed somewhere, let the employer know of their demise. These will facilitate collection of any benefits your parent may have had with their employer, and also their final paychecks if any are still outstanding.

· Let social security know your parents passed away. If your parents were receiving social security checks, notify social security administration of your parents’ demise and ask about survivor benefits.

· Inform veteran affairs administration. If any of your parents passed away while receiving veteran benefit payments, have it stopped. Also ask veteran affairs administration about any survivor benefits.

Distributing assets 

Administering the estate of your late parents requires adherence to certain legal requirements so that it will not result in personal liability to you. You should work with an experienced attorney licensed to practice in the state your late parents resided in before they died. The attorney will advice you on the correct process of distributing your late parents’ assets and helps you avoid problems.

Estate Planning

A living trust is an estate planning tool whose aim in part is to avoid probate. Your parents may have created a trust and transferred their property into it. In their lifetime, they administered the trust for the benefit of all the beneficiaries. When your parents passed away, the trust was irrevocable and a trustee steps into their position. If you are the trustee, you must administer or distribute the trust for all beneficiaries according to the terms of the trust. This is done privately and avoids probate or oversight. If there was a trust by the time your parents passed away, you will not need to spend high attorney fees and there would be no court appearances to administer their estate. 

Let the professionals at The Law Offices of Bj Richardson help you find the professional attorney to help you with your specific needs. We don’t handle every aspect of tax law, however , we can direct you to a  professional that can handle any area of tax law that we don’t handle.

Call today for your free 30 minute consultation. 417-234-1874

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