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Steps To Take After a Death

The death of a loved one can be an emotional and traumatic event. While dealing with the grief and loss, survivors must often sort through the legal and financial steps that must be taken. This can be an overwhelming task , especially to family members who have had little experience in such matters. Consider the situation where the spouse who has passed away handled all the couple's finances, or where the children have been told little about their parents financial situation and holdings. In addition, the estate itself may be in disarray due to poor management or holdings across many states (i.e bank accounts, real estate, etc.). Often, the survivors do not know where to begin or when to contact a lawyer. The following is a set of guidelines designed to help take some of the bewilderment and anxiety out of the process.

1. Secure personal property- When an individual passes away, especially if that person lived alone, it is crucial to safeguard the contents of the house. This includes anything tangible such as silverware, paintings, and jewelry. Burglars often scan the obituaries looking for empty houses to rob. Furthermore, if you are the executor of the deceased's estate you have a responsibility to inventory and distribute the property according to the deceased's wishes. If family members remove items from the house before you have an opportunity to do so, this task will be impossible and you may be held accountable for the property that failed to be distributed to the appropriate people.

2. Locate the original will- In order to properly probate an estate, the original will must be filed with the court. A xeroxed copy will not be accepted except in very special circumstances. In addition, the will must be located in order to ascertain who the deceased named executor or executrix of their estate. Most often the will is held by the attorney for the deceased. If the attorney does not have it, it may be necessary to contact the deceased's close friends and relatives to see if the decedent told someone where they kept the will. It also may be necessary to search the decedent's house.

3. Gather the paperwork- Try to find out and gather as much as possible about the decedent's finances and debts. Financial statements and tax documents are great places to begin. Don't worry about putting the papers in order or trying to track down missing statements, the lawyer you hire will have experience in organizing and determining which papers are relevant.

4. Call the lawyer- The named executor should call their lawyer and make an appointment to begin probate. It is a good idea to bring to the meeting the original will, copy of the death certificate, and the paperwork gathered in step 3.

It is also important to note a great deal of the anxiety associated with preprobate considerations can be reduced simply by talking to your immediate family about such basic matters as where your will is located and keeping good records of your assets and liabilities.

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Stramer Law Offices
134 Main Street
Milford, MA 01757
Phone: 508-478-6944
Fax: 508-478-6949
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