6 Estate Planning Questions to Ask After the Loss of a Parent
Have you recently experienced the loss of your parent? We know this is devastating, especially when you have no other parent alive. For most of us, the passing of our parents is a real life changing situation. We are now the parents with children, businesses and responsibilities. You need to now proceed with your life, plan forward to protect yourself and your family, just like you watched your parents do.
However, before you proceed with your plans, you need to fulfill the obligations you have in your parent’s final affairs. Your obligation may be as the personal representative of a last will and testament or the successor trustee of a trust agreement. Either of these roles may come with serious responsibilities, and we know it may raise significant questions that you would like to have answered before moving forward in either capacity. We would like to take this opportunity to answer a few of the most frequent estate planning questions we hear from our clients after the loss of a parent.
- Do you need to know the assets of your parent? Yes, you should make a list of all of the assets you know that were owned by your deceased parent. You may know they owned a house and a car. But what about stocks, investment accounts, insurance policies or digital currency?
- Are you able to identify the income and the amount of the income your parent was receiving on a monthly or annual basis? Be sure to check the mail, look for statements, and look at digital accounts if you have access. Be aware that in all likelihood the money that is received after the death of your parent may need to be returned.
- Have you been keeping track of any and all bills that are being received? Watch the mail, look at digital accounts if you have access to them, and keep track of your expenses if you have paid for anything. These bills 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 Florida probate attorney so they can be correctly managed.
- Have you consulted with an experienced Florida probate attorney? Your attorney will know the specific Florida 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 Florida probate attorney who is not only familiar with estate planning but has significant experience in handling all these matters for surviving loved ones.
- Have you located your parent’s estate plan? Are you sure it is 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, your estate planning attorney can help you determine what to do next.
- Finally, have you neglected to do your own estate planning? After successfully handling the estate of your parent with guidance from your Florida probate attorney, and (hopefully) noting the excellent implementation of all the legal tools that your parent put into place with his or her estate plan, are you inspired to now create your own estate plan? Do not wait to meet with a Florida estate planning attorney who can provide you with critical information in this area.
All the above being said, are you facing the opposite scenario and, in fact, have not been named in your parent’s estate plan? This could mean that you have not been assigned a role of responsibility, or you are only meant to be a beneficiary of the overall estate, or for some reason you are not included at all. Unfortunately, however, it may also mean that your parent did not take the time to create an estate plan, and he or she has passed away intestate, or without a will. In this latter instance, the distribution of your parent’s estate will be governed by Florida state law. We still highly recommend that you still consult with an experienced Florida estate planning attorney to learn more about what both of these scenarios could mean for you.
We know this article may raise more questions than it answers. 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.