Probate is a process that usually begins with filing the decedent’s will with the court, filing for an Heirship Determination, or filing documents asking the court to appoint an Independent Administrator.
As with any legal proceeding, there are technical aspects to every probate administration:
- Creditors must be notified and legal notices published in certain probate cases.
- Executors of the will or Administrators of the Estate must be guided in how and when to distribute assets and how to handle the debts of the estate.
- Texas is a community property state. Community property is treated differently than separate property in Texas.
- There are time factors involved in filing and objecting to claims against the estate. There may be separate procedures required in contentious probate cases.
- Estate taxes, gift taxes, or inheritance taxes must be considered if the estate exceeds certain thresholds.
- Assets that have designated beneficiaries, such as life insurance or POD accounts may simply need to be transferred from the deceased to the designated beneficiaries.
- If a decedent died without a will, an Attorney ad Litem may need to be appointed by the judge to find any lost heirs.
Upon the death of a loved one, great emotional sadness and stress set in. After the funeral or memorial service, it becomes time to address the task of administering the estate of the deceased.
Included below is a brief list of the actions which your Personal Representative and Trustee should take immediately upon death.
(Many of these actions may similarly be required in the event of incapacity.) This is not intended as an all-inclusive detailed explanation of all actions which should be taken; rather, it is for use as a checklist to help the appointed representatives step in and handle those items which demand immediate attention.
Notify a funeral director and clergy, and make an appointment to discuss funeral arrangements.
Request several copies of decedent’s death certificate, which you’ll need for his or her employer, life insurance companies, and/or decedent’s attorney for legal procedures.
Call and notify the immediate family, close friends, business colleagues and employer.
Arrange for care for members of the immediate family, including appropriate child care, having people at the decedent’s house, etc.
Locate the decedent’s important papers.
Gather as many of the decedent’s papers as possible, and continue to do so for the next few weeks. Look for a Last Will and Testament.
This meeting is important to review decedent’s estate planning documents and to discuss taxes that may be due. The attorney will also determine the extent to which it is necessary or advisable to open a probate estate.
Call decedent’s employee benefits office with the following information:
- Social Security number;
- date of death (or incapacity);
- whether the death (or incapacity) was due to accident or illness; and
- if decedent was eligible for Medicare, notify the local program office and provide the same information.
Notify life, accident, or disability insurers of decedent’s death or disability.
Give the same information as listed above, and ask what other information is needed to begin processing your claim. Ask which payment option decedent had elected, and select another option if you would so prefer. If there is no payment option, you will be paid in a lump sum.
Notify the decedent’s Social Security office of the death.
Claims may be expedited if a surviving family member goes in person to the nearest office to investigate making a claim for survivor’s benefits. Look for the address under US Government in the phone book.
Get a cash advance if needed.
If you need emergency cash before insurance claims are paid, a cash advance may be available from life insurance benefits to which you are entitled.
If decedent was ever in the military service, notify the Veterans’ Administration.
Surviving relatives may be eligible for death or disability benefits.
Keep track of your spending.
Record in a small ledger all money you or the immediate family spends. These figures may be needed for tax returns or can be considered as an expense of the decedent’s estate.
Remember that a surviving family member may be in a highly emotional state. Therefore, they should avoid entering contracts for anything, and avoid spending or lending large sums of money.
DO NOT CHANGE THE TITLE OF ANY ASSETS! DO NOT GIVE AWAY ANY OF THE DECEDENT’S PERSONAL PROPERTY.
This can create unnecessary problems for you. Please contact our office for a free consultation before you start this process.
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