There are many legal matters that must be attended to following the death of a loved one. A family doesn’t want to be forced to learn the legal process, especially if a loved one has been left to oversee all the deceased’s affairs. Hiring a lawyer to assist with finalizing your loved one’s affairs isn’t required, but will make the process easier.
An executor is the personal representative of someone’s estate. Following someone’s death, the executor is in charge of taking control of the assets, paying off any debts and distributing other assets to the beneficiaries per the terms and conditions of the will.
A will is a legal document that makes the wishes of your loved one known. This document will include information about how the property and assets of someone will be distributed. In the case there isn’t a will involved, a person’s wishes may not be carried out and could lead to additional resources being spent to settle your loved one’s affairs.
The probate process begins at the Clerk of Superior Court in the deceased's county of residence. An application is submitted to the clerk by either the executor/executrix named in a will or, if there is no will or the person named in the will is not able or willing to serve, a person qualified to be an administrator.
This formal legal process gives recognition to a will and appoints the executor or personal representative who will administer the estate and distribute assets to be inherited by any beneficiaries.
A trust is a legal mechanism that allows you to put conditions or stipulations on how your assets are distributed after you die. Setting up a trust should be considered when leaving assets to someone who is underage. A revocable living trust is a document created by an individual and is used to avoid probate and protect the privacy of the trust owner and beneficiaries. There are limitations involved with a revocable trust, like the expense of having them written up and the fact they lack many features of an irrevocable trust.
How a bank account is handled after someone’s death varies from region to region. In some states, a bank account is frozen immediately after someone’s death. Either way, the family or executor of someone’s estate should notify the bank immediately following the death. A Certified Copy of a Death Certificate will be required to take someone’s name off an account.