Death is an inevitable outcome that all of us will face at one time or another. There are legal aspects of dying which are important to understand.
1. A Personal Representative, Successor or Trustee of a Trust should make a list of the assets owned by the loved one.
2. Open a bank account for the estate of the loved one. This should be done early on and all receipts and disbursements should be recorded in that bank account, in order to account properly for the assets and the expenses of administration.
3.Be certain to locate insurance policies or annuities. Contact the Insurer with respect to any current policies.
4. Assemble deeds to determine what real estate, if any was owned. If real estate was owned in more than one state, special proceedings, called “ancillary administrations,” may be needed in each state. Be certain to locate insurance policies and determine how to maintain them.
5. Locate bank accounts and safe deposit boxes. Determine if any securities, stocks, bonds, mutual funds, etc. are owned. These securities involved important choices to be made by certain beneficiaries, particularly in regard to IRA accounts. If there are annuities, pension and profit sharing plans and interest of that type, they may provide for joint payment to a surviving spouse or others.
6. Pinpoint retirement plans, IRA accounts and similar retirement benefits which may be applicable to the situation.
7. If the loved one controlled or was a principal person in a business, it may be necessary to determine if there are Buy-Sell Agreements associated with the death.
8. Determine if the loved one had valid debt to anyone.
9. If there is a surviving spouse, make sure veteran’s benefits or other “joint and survivor” benefits are acknowledged by that spouse.
10. Do not be quick to make distributions to family members or friends of the deceased.
11. If there is a Trust, particularly a Revocable Living Trust, it will become irrevocable at the time of death, if not before. A separate tax return, Form 1041, Fiduciary Income Tax Return, needs to be filed for the Trust of the Estate of the Decedent if income is received by the Estate or a Trust.
A Word of Caution…
As you go through this process, please be aware of people who prey upon families of the deceased. there are people who look through death notices and make unfounded claims against the deceased. Some may also attempt to burglarize the home during the funeral service. Be cautious about such matters; have someone stay at the home during the funeral service and do not easily accept claims of unknown individuals who lack proper documentation.