There will likely be a reason you need an attorney after your loved one has passed. Legal assistance could be for one or several of the following reasons:
- Probate a Will. This will likely be found in a lockbox at the bank. The Will must be admitted to court with an official filing before it can be acted upon. There could be several estate matters to attend to and you want someone with experience assisting you.
- File a lawsuit against a person at fault in a car crash or other type of injury or negligence.
- Press charges against a drug dealer who’s been incarcerated.
- Discovery filing to gain access to a Last Will and Testament if you feel you deserve to see what’s in the Will and the Executor is not providing the information requested.
- Handle taxes and debts of the deceased. If there are not enough assets to pay these it is not the responsibility of the family members to cover the payments.
If you are appointed the Executor for legal assistance, you will need a letter of Testamentary or letter of administration. This will give you authority to carry out the directives in the Will with regards to the estate. You will want a lawyer to help ensure you follow the terms of the Will correctly as you have fiduciary responsibility.
The following list will help you secure the documents you will need as the Executor:
- Death certificate(s)
- Will or trust
- Insurance policies (life, homeowners, health, disability, auto, etc.)
- Last credit card statements
- Investment accounts (IRAs, 401(k) plans, mutual funds, pensions, etc.)
- Last checking and savings account statements (including CDs and money-market accounts)
- Last mortgage statement
- Last two years’ tax returns
- Marriage and birth certificates (of the deceased’s spouse and children)
- An up-to-date credit report of the deceased
All these documents will help you find accounts and assets, and assess outstanding debts, as well as submit claims for benefits and cash payments that may be due the deceased person’s beneficiaries and heirs.
You will also need to notify the following organizations:
- Social Security Administration
- The deceased person’s employer
- Insurance companies
- Credit bureaus
- Credit card companies – They need to know right away to prevent fraudulent activities.
- Post office
- Utility companies
Social Security does offer survivors a one-time death benefit. The spouse or children of someone who dies may be eligible for monthly survivor benefits from Social Security. To find out if you qualify, contact Social Security online or call 800-772-1213
Life Insurance: If there was a life insurance policy, you need to also notify them of the policy holder passing. You will have to submit a claim form along with a certified death certificate. Note: Most people advise not doing anything about this for 6 months as you are grieving and may receive the payout and spend it on frivolous things because you are not thinking clearly.