It’s difficult enough to put a loved one to rest, but for many it is made more difficult by having to sort out the deceased’s financial affairs after the funeral. Personal representatives, executors and heirs alike are often left with this duty, but have little to no guidance on what their responsibilities are. Some people are lucky enough to know they have been named the executor years before their loved one dies. Others are caught completely unaware and find themselves dealing with complex financial issues at a time when they are mourning the loss of a loved one.
Whether you are experienced with this responsibility or not, estate attorneys are an invaluable resource when it comes to dealing with your deceased loved one’s financial affairs and assets.
Estate attorneys are legal professionals who specialize in settling the affairs of a deceased person. They are sometimes called a probate attorney or lawyer and are instrumental in walking an executor through the probate process. These professionals also advise beneficiaries on issues related to the property and their inheritance.
Estate Attorneys Assist Executors
Executors are often overwhelmed with paperwork that needs to be completed in a timely manner upon a person’s passing. The guidance of an attorney in these matters can speed up the process and help ensure you don’t miss anything. Estate attorneys can help an executor:
1. Locate probate and non-probate assets
2. Obtain investment values and appraisals of the deceased’s properties
3. Collect life insurance proceeds
4. Advise on the payment of a decedent’s bills and outstanding debt
5. Determining what, if any, taxes are due and locating funds to pay for them
6. Assisting with the sale of the deceased’s properties
7. Settling disputes among beneficiaries
8. Accessing investment accounts
9. Keeping track of expenses
10. Working with the courts to obtain permission for actions needed to settle the estate
11. Preparing and filing documents required by the probate court
Sometimes the beneficiaries and the executor are different people, or the executor may be one of several beneficiaries. The attorney can help the non-executor beneficiaries too. If your loved one died without a will in place, the state will determine not only what the heirs receive, but also who they are. If minor children are involved, the state will determine guardianship. An lawyer can help guide you through these legal processes and be your advocate in court.
Designing A Plan
You can make things easier on your beneficiaries and executor by meeting with estate attorneys now. They will be able to help you create a plan that can help minimize your heirs’ tax burden and protect your assets. You can designate charities as beneficiaries, choose guardians for your children, set up trusts and create a power of attorney or a healthcare power of attorney. By designing an estate plan before you need it, these important decisions are decided by you, not the state, not your executor, not your beneficiaries. It is the single best way to ensure your wishes are met if you become mentally incapacitated or die.
Whether you need help designing a plan, getting through probate as an executor or fighting for your rights as a beneficiary, estate attorneys can provide you with the guidance and support you need.