What to Do When Someone Dies

Dealing with the death of a close family member and loved one is a sad and emotional time for the entire family. People are overwhelmed with grief and emotions at the loss of their loved one. After making funeral arrangements and paying funeral costs, most people are either not sure what needs to be done next or simply need some help getting organized. The family members are generally unfamiliar with the New York probate laws and probate formalities, heirs may not reside in the State of New York and many times families have a hard time agreeing about financial decisions.

The estate may be large, and there may be many assets to manage that require expertise. Family members may not know what to do with the decedent’s business or how to manage the decedent’s real estate holdings. Real estate or other personal property may need to be appraised and sold. This is also a time when long lost family members and estranged family may need to be located. Plus unexpected surprises such as skeletons from the decedent’s past may surface such as a child born out of wedlock coming forward and making a claim to an inheritance. Disputes may arise among family members over the disposition of assets. Most of the time, grieving family members are just not be ready to cope or handle all these unfamiliar matters thrown at them.

Need for Legal Help

For these reasons, it is quite common for family members, beneficiaries, heirs or other interested parties to hire a New York City probate attorney to provide legal advice and handle legal and tax matters. The attorney will be able to help with obtaining the death certificate, reviewing the will and trust documents and determining whether a probate or intestate proceeding must be filed with the New York Surrogate’s Court as well as assisting with other estate administration matters. Keep in mind that any assets that were held in the decedent’s sole name at the time of the decedent’s death are subject to probate. Assets placed in a trust, held jointly or with named beneficiaries, such as life insurance policies are excluded from probate and pass automatically to the beneficiaries.

Locating the Decedent’s Will and Other Legal and Financial Documents

The surviving spouse or children may be helpful in locating the whereabouts of the decedent’s will, life insurance policies and other financial accounts. Likely places to look for the will, insurance policies, bank and financial statements and other legal documents may be with the decedent’s lawyer, the decedent’s bank safe deposit box or a locked file cabinet or desk drawer in the decedent’s home. It is important to find the original will and any amendments or codicils to admit to probate and to make sure the decedent’s wishes are carried out in the manner intended. Having a valid will and/or codicil can help avoid legal disputes such as will contests.

Probate or Intestate Proceedings and Administration

Once the will has been found, or it has been established that the decedent died without a will (intestate), the executor, heir, beneficiary or attorney can file a probate or an intestate matter with the New York Surrogate’s Court. It may be also be necessary to get temporary estate funds released to the surviving spouse and family for living expenses, food, medical care or special needs. If minor children are involved, and there is no surviving parent, a guardianship may need to be established. Funds from the decedent’s bank accounts and financial accounts will need to be transferred to estate bank and financial accounts.

Telephone calls may need to be made to the decedent’s employer to find out about retirement accounts and other death benefits as well as calling insurance companies to get death benefits paid. A list of the decedent’s debts will need to be compiled as well as an accounting of all assets. Creditor’s claims will need to be reviewed. Any litigation matters that may arise such as will contests or other disputes must be handled. The executor or administrator must resolve these matters before the estate can be wound up and heirs receive their inheritances.

New York Estate Lawyers

Since many of the issues that arise during the course of an estate administration are complex and require legal expertise, this is where having an experienced NYC probate and estate attorney involved in the estate administration plays an important role. Mike St. Pre and his team of experienced attorneys can assist with preparing the necessary legal documents, attending court hearings, resolving legal disputes and handling all other legal and tax matters.

If a loved one has recently passed away, then hiring a competent estate lawyer can help ease the burden and stress that you and your family are experiencing and ensure that the heirs receive their inheritances in an efficient and timely manner.