There is no question that the loss of a spouse or loved one is a devastating time. The emotional toll it can take on you, even under the most peaceful circumstances, is tremendous. You may experience feelings of not only sadness but also paranoia, disorientation, confusion, loss of purpose, and uncertainty about how to move forward.
One of the greatest gifts we can give to our loved ones is a comprehensive estate plan that encompasses both our wishes and the guidance of an experienced estate planning attorney who knows how to navigate the laws in our state. When there is an estate plan in place, it can create a roadmap to follow for not only the wealth the recently deceased left to be distributed but a legacy that will live on after him or her.
If you have suffered a recent loss, our thoughts are with you. We know you may have questions about what estate planning steps to take next to follow not only the goals set out by your spouse or loved one but also how to best protect yourself going forward. Let us share with you the estate planning steps you can take after the death of your spouse or loved one right here.
1. Make a list of all of the assets you know of for the recently deceased person. What do you know that he or she owned? A house and a car may be normal to expect, but what about stocks, investment accounts, insurance policies, or digital currency? Even for married couples, it will be important to complete a deep dive to identify just what belonged to the recently deceased person. Also, keep an eye out for income that is being received each month. There is a possibility that income of the decedent received after death may need to be returned.
2. Keep track of any and all bills that are being received. Watch the mail, 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. You will want to bring these expenses to the attorney you choose to work with so they can be correctly addressed.
3. Find the estate planning of your spouse or loved one. Do you have the estate plan? Is it the original? Are you named as the personal representative of the last will and testament or trustee of the trust agreement? If you do not know the answer to these questions or have concerns about them, do not feel alone. Your estate planning attorney can help you determine what to do next.
4. Consult with an attorney experienced in this area. There are specific statutes and rules governing the matters of probate or estate administration for a last will and trust administration for trust agreements. There can be no replacement for experience in this area. Research and make sure you are working with an attorney who is not only familiar with estate planning but has significant experience in handling these matters for the family.
5. Do not neglect your own estate planning. After the death of a spouse or loved one, there is much to do to make sure you are protected. If your recently deceased loved one was a decision maker in your estate plan or a beneficiary, your own planning will need to be updated. You may also have different goals in light of your new circumstances. Do not wait to meet with an estate planning attorney who can provide you with critical information in this area.
If your loved one did not have an estate plan, meeting with an experienced estate planning attorney becomes more important than ever. Further, time is of the essence. You will need the guidance of an attorney who understands the issues facing you when your loved one dies intestate, or without a last will and testament. Our law firm is able to address these challenges and assist you under these circumstances.
We know this article may raise more questions than it answers, and we want to support you. Our estate planning law firm takes a very different approach from what you might have come to expect. Our goal is to create lifelong relationships with each of our clients, to guide and manage your legacy for the rest of your life. Please contact our offices in Stuart and in Palm City to learn more.