Unfortunately, this month I’ve heard of several people passing. While I normally focus on planning, there are so many questions when a loved one dies.
First, while there are timeframes involved (which we’ll get to later), take time to grieve. There is plenty to do, but generally speaking, there is also plenty of time to do it.
Second, before moving any assets, taking any checks, ESPECIALLY retirement accounts, it’s extremely important to talk to an accountant or financial advisor. There are wrong ways to take money that could cause large tax liabilities that cannot be fixed.
Third, determine what assets are involved and if there are any bills that must continue being paid. Back in December, I mentioned making a list of your assets and how they’re titled. If your loved one does not have a list already prepared, use this one as a starting point. If you’re not planning on selling a home or car that has a loan, keep paying the loan. If you don’t have access to a bank account or other liquid assets of the deceased to make the payments, keep clear records of any money of your own you contribute to the deceased assets.
Finally, you will need to consult an attorney. In Missouri, an attorney is required to handle probate. But more importantly, if there is a will it must be ADMITTED into probate within ONE YEAR of the date of death in order for the will to be valid. It’s important to make sure the will has been admitted, not just filed. I’ve had clients come to me a year and a half after the parent has passed, thinking that because the will had been filed with the court, the will would control. Unfortunately, because it had only been filed and not admitted, more work had to be done and more people had to sign off on the court filings.
While there are important things that need to be done after some a loved one passes, very little is actually urgent (I promise the probate court won’t treat it as urgently as you imagine it) and most decision should be made with some extra time and thought. I’d much rather help people plan in advance when they’re able to think rationally, rather than after when they’re thinking emotionally. Either way, it’s a difficult time with much that needs to be done, but these few things are a place to start.