One famous passage from Ecclesiastes says, “the thing that hath been; it is that which shall be, and that which is done is that which shall be done and there is no new thing under the sun.” This is a phrase often used when trying to understand the many trying circumstances that people face. There is comfort in the idea that the world has seen infinite scenarios of tragedy and we are not the first. People are always reaching to understand that all human beings face a similar journey and, in fact, a similar end. We will return from which we came—and where that is is not entirely verifiable and people hold their varying beliefs—yet, the reality of death often hits us as if we've never once contemplated it. When people lose a loved one, they are faced with multiple things at once: grief, surprise, sadness, and often the practical reality of a financial situation left in ruins, chaos, or uncertainty. In trying times, you might be faced with dealing with this unfinished business and while it is a difficult responsibility, it is best dealt with by someone who understands the way the system works.
Many people will make bad financial decisions when they are burdened with grief. They might find themselves ignoring important matters, leaving things on the backburner, throwing money away, etc. Here are a few things to consider if you're dealing with a difficult financial situation after the death of a family member.
A Few Tips To Start Off With
Protect assets. During the initial period after the passing, there is plenty of grieving and confusion. Yet, it is important for the family to remember that assets should be protected and nothing should be distributed until there is an estate and a personal representative or executor is named.
Check for a will. It often happens that the family is unaware that a will was written out. Take some time before you start panicking to consider whether there was a will and if that might answer some of the questions family members have. It is a good idea to check with the deceased attorney or accountant to see if anything was ever written out.
Obtain a death certificate. The fact and the matter is that not much legal stuff can get rolling without an official death certificate. It is important that families stay on top of this and get the documentation needed as quickly as possible.
Debt is the responsibility of the estate. Debts and unpaid taxes follow the responsibility of the estate, not the family members. Many family members often mistakenly believe that they are responsible for paying all of the deceased credit cards or other debt. They are not legally required to do so. This falls under the responsibility of the estate and that's why it's important to know how to handle the estate properly.
The Probate process. An experienced attorney can help you navigate the probate process. Typically the probate process begins by a family member asking the court to make them executor of the estate. They do this by filing some paperwork—a petition or application—in the county in which the deceased person was living. From there the court will have you file other documents or follow certain procedures that may include notifying the beneficiaries, proving a will's validity, and so forth.
After that, it will be necessary to administer the estate. The executor holds the responsibility of keeping the estate property safe and protected throughout the probate process. They are also in charge of performing other duties like opening an estate bank account, preparation of income tax returns, arrange and file for appraisals, and so forth.
Trust a Professional To Guide You Through It
Life offers no easy answers. It often confounds us with its beauty and its tragedy. It fills us with its possibilities and challenges us with its left turns. It gives us endless beauty, although we know it can only be temporary. In addition to all the wonderful things in life, there are those moments when we lose someone we love and everything—if for a moment— seems very disorienting and confusing. There is no denying the emotional difficulty of dealing with a family death, but there is also a practical reality that must be dealt with and people will often find that having someone guide them through the process will make the healing much easier.