Q: My Mom just died this morning. I have no idea what to do next. Can you help?
A: I’m so sorry. Thank you for calling. The first thing to do is arrange the funeral and lay her to rest. If she left prearrangements or instructions, that makes things easier; otherwise, think about how she laid your father to rest – maybe that would help understand what she would want. If you already have access to her funds as a beneficiary or joint owner, you can use those funds for her final expenses, but you might have to complete paperwork first. Talk to the bank or broker. Sometimes you can assign life insurance to the funeral home to pay for their services. Some funeral homes will let you pay after the estate is opened. And sometimes, you need to pay out of your funds and then get reimbursed out of your mother’s estate after it’s opened. Once you have taken care of that and have a death certificate in hand, give me a call and we’ll proceed.
Q: Mom’s funeral was yesterday, and I have a death certificate. What’s next?
A: If there were accounts or other assets just in her name, with no living beneficiary or joint owner, we’ll need to open her estate. Her “estate” is the legal entity that owns all her assets now that she is deceased. Her estate is administered by her “Personal Representative” or “PR.” If she had a will, that’s how she would designate the Executor who is named as PR. If she had no will, we need agreement among the family. Either way, we would need to complete Register of Wills forms to open the estate and start the lengthy estate administration process. If there were no assets or accounts just in her name, there would be no estate to administer, but if she had a will, the law requires that the original will be delivered to the office of the county Register of Wills “within a reasonable time.”
Attorney Tim Barkley
The Tim Barkley Law Offices
One Park Avenue
P.O. Box 1136
Wills & Trusts | Estate Planning | Probates & Estates
Elder Law | Real Estate | Business Planning