Saturday, April 23, 2011

What To Do When a Loved One Passes Away

Whether your spouse has just passed away or you've lost your mom or dad, the emotional trauma of losing a loved one often comes with a bewildering array of financial and legal issues demanding attention.

Those issues can wait.  It is more important to take care of your loved ones and yourself first.  When you are ready, the legal issues can be dealt with.

You should meet with an attorney to review the steps necessary to administer the decedent's estate. While the exact rules of estate administration differ from state to state, the key actions include:
  • File the will in probate court in order to be appointed executor.
  • Collect the assets. This means that you need to find out about everything the deceased owned.
  • Pay the bills and taxes. The final income tax return should be filed.  If an estate tax return is due, it must be filed within nine months of the date of death.
  • Provide an informal or formal accounting to the heirs and obtain their approval which is then filed.
  • Finally, make the final distributions of the remainder of the estate to the heirs.
Estate administration also involves transferring assets that are not controlled by a will.  The distribution of these assets may be controlled by trusts, joint ownership or beneficiary designations. 

For more details on steps surviving family members should take, click here.

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