Most people don’t know that there is a time limit on certain tasks that need occur after someone passes away. According to WXYZ Detroit’s article, “Tips you need to know to take a loved one's estate through probate,” you’ll need to contact the Probate Court within 42 days of the death to find out whether you’ll need to have either a formal or informal administration of the estate. That’s just for starters. Here are other things that need to be done after the funeral:
- Don’t rush to have an obituary notice published. There are scam artists who use the obituaries as an information source for going after estate assets, planning burglaries and engaging in identity theft.
- See if there are any assets titled solely in the name of the deceased.
- Assets jointly owned pass to the surviving joint party outside of probate;
- Real estate not specifically stating joint tenancy on the deed or husband and wife requires probate; and
- Assets titled in just the name of the deceased require probate.
- Determine if there are assets in the sole name of the deceased or not held as a joint tenant for real estate.
- Assets with a beneficiary designation, like an IRA, insurance policy, or a payable on death (POD) bank account pass to the named party. If a party isn’t named, they are part of the probate estate.
- Assets not designated with a named beneficiary or held jointly will be part of a probate estate.
At this point, you’re just trying to see if a probate estate is necessary … you don’t have to locate all of the assets to open an estate. Other assets can be added later.
- Calculate the value of the assets that require a probate estate to determine if you require a small estate process or a full probate procedure.
- Find the will to see if specific parties are named to inherit and administer the estate.
- Get the contact information of all parties named in the will and family members who will inherit by law.
- Obtain an original death certificate and order several copies.
- If there’s no will, come to an agreement as to who should open and handle the estate as Personal Representative and sign the proper court forms.
- Contact an established estate planning attorney to handle the estate or advise you, depending on the amount of work you want to handle and your budget. An attorney can complete and file the appropriate forms.
- File the forms in court and pay the fees to open the estate. You’ll receive a letter authorizing you to speak and act on behalf of the estate as the Personal Representative (you can charge the estate a fee for your time).
- After the estate is open, publish a notice to creditors and allow four months for claims.
- Notify known creditors using the court form and include a copy of the death certificate, if requested.
- Notify credit bureaus of the death to prevent identity theft.
- Keep searching for assets and determine their value. Within three months of opening the estate, you have to file an inventory with the court and determine fees to be paid to the court based on the value. Assets can be added to the inventory until you close the estate.
- If the deceased had a home, contact the utilities and arrange for maintenance, then sell it with permission of the court.
- The estate cannot be closed until all of the claims have been filed, the claimants are all paid, the assets are distributed to the beneficiaries and the proper paperwork is filed with the court. This can be a long process, so don’t expect to wrap it up swiftly.
On a personal note, because this process is taking place while you are grieving, things that may otherwise have been simple tasks can become emotionally fraught. An experienced Houston estate planning attorney’s office may be able to help with these tasks during a difficult time.
Reference: WXYZ Detroit (November 18, 2016) “Tips you need to know to take a loved one's estate through probate”