5 Steps to Prepare for Probate
Death of a Loved One. . .
What to Do First
The death of a family member or other loved one is difficult. When you are grieving, it is hard to focus on what you should be doing. This simple guide is designed for you to help you make sense of the probate process and keep you on track.
Using these 5 steps to prepare for probate will make things easier for you, but remember you are not alone. Always ask for help from others if you need it; people are ready and willing to help, but won’t want to intrude. Allowing others to help you takes a load from you and can be a blessing to them.
Any time you are unsure about what to do, contact a qualified probate attorney who will steer you in the right direction. Even if you are not ready to begin the entire probate process, especially if you are not ready, getting an attorney on your team early on makes it simpler.
Step 1. Collect Available Paperwork
- Your first step is to collect and perform an initial review of available paperwork. There may be a Will or other documentation outlining instructions for a funeral or pre-paid burial plans. There may be a pre-written obituary.
- You can also look for other documents you will need later, including life insurance policies, mortgage and banking documents, titles, deeds and other papers. Put these items into a folder for review after the funeral.
- At some point during the process you will be ordering death certificates. Always order at least 10.
Step 2. Arrange for and Attend Funeral
- Make the necessary arrangements for burial, cremation or other arrangements. Notify family members and close associates of the deceased.
- The funeral home can help you with many tasks. Enlist the aid of others to help you with anything you feel you can delegate.
- If a dispute regarding the funeral arises, skip to Step 5.
Step 3. Review Paperwork, Notify and Submit
- Pull out the folder of the papers you have collected, see if you can locate more papers.
- Determine whether there is a valid Will if you have not already done so.
- Contact the Social Security Administration, the Veteran’s Administration if the deceased served in the Military, any current employers, lenders and financial institutions. You will need death certificates for most notifications.
- If there are life insurance policies or other death benefits, notify the companies and request information for submitting claims.
- If creditors should contact you, provide the date of death. Do not agree to pay anything for your loved one or sign anything related to the accounts before speaking to an attorney.
- If there is no valid Will, or if there is any confusion or conflict regarding the beneficiaries or heirs of the estate, skip to Step 5.
Step 4. Secure Property
- If you are the named executor in a valid Will, or if you believe you are the person who will be handling the estate, secure the property of the deceased. This means changing locks, collecting and processing mail, paying things necessary to maintain the property and generally making sure everything is preserved as it was on the date of death.
- Do not spend funds of the estate without talking to an attorney.
- Do not dispose of assets of the estate without talking to an attorney.
- If there is no Will and you are unsure as to who will handle the estate, or if there are any conflicts between beneficiaries or heirs, skip to Step 5.
Step 5. Contact a Probate Attorney
- Once you feel ready, contact a probate attorney. This may be at the very beginning, at the first sign of any confusion or conflict. Or it may be after you have had the funeral and are ready to begin the probate process.
- The attorney will review the estate and provide expert guidance and advice.
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Bob Leonard Law Group, PLLC, Practices Probate Law in Tarrant County And Parker County, Texas. We are located at 101 Summit Avenue, Suite 300, Fort Worth, Texas, 76102. Call our law office 817-336-8500. Speak to a highly qualified and experienced probate attorney in Fort Worth about your Tarrant County or Parker County Probate case.
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