Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Handling The Finances Of A Loved One After Their Death

will for family
Suffering a bereavement of a loved one is bad enough. Handling the affairs of someone after they have passed on can be additional stress that you don’t need. There can be months of liaising with the banks and dealing with the authorities on top of the stress you are going through. There is the matter of dealing with the probate. If you are named in a will as an executor of their estate, you may need to apply for probate. This is a legal document which gives you the authority to share out the estate in accordance with what the will stipulates. But what if there is no will? What is the process then? It is quite a surprise how many people don’t leave a will, which not only causes problems in accessing the estate, but also a number of rifts it may cause among family members. Handling any financial affairs of your closest family members, or distant relatives who didn’t have anyone close to them can feel like a stress that you don’t need. But it is a necessary action that needs to be taken so they can be given the send-off they deserve, but also the process can be dealt with as little bumps and obstacles as possible.

When A Loved One Dies…

The process after a relative passes away, of course, begins with the funeral. The costs of the funeral usually will come from the deceased. If they have suffered a terminal disease, they may have already paid for the funeral already. If this is not the case, the funeral costs come from the estate, if the deceased has enough money in it. Otherwise, a relative or friend would pay for it and reclaim the costs from the estate, but that is if there is enough money in the estate. If you are looking to pay for the funeral, you should check with the estate to see you can recover the money afterward. If you or anyone is unable to make any payment towards the funeral, the local hospital or council can arrange for one, but this is usually a cremation, and you are unable to choose the date of the service, it also tends to be a short service. This should be a very last option if there are no funds to cover the funeral, so if you can afford to cover the costs or most of the costs of the service, it is a much better approach for everyone.

Other options available to you include asking the bank to see if they would allow the deceased’s remaining funds in the account to cover the funeral. But, upon a person’s death, the bank would freeze the account. The option, in that case, would be to either contact the executor or administrator of the estate; this is dependent on a will being present. If there is no will, you could speak to the bank to see if they will release the money. Some banks can do this, but you will need to have a copy of the death certificate and an invoice from the funeral home that would have your name on it. In these circumstances, you must make sure that you have proof of ID. It can be very tempting to access the money direct from the bank account if you have the information, but you could run into a whole mess of legal problems, so you are best doing it by the book. The only exception to the rule is when there is a joint account.

After The Funeral…

Once the funeral has been and gone or depending on when the funeral is, the financial affairs of the deceased needs to be sorted. By informing the authorities of the person’s death, such as the utility companies (gas, water, electric, etc.), you can get the accounts closed down and if they were owed money back or underpaid on their bills. If they did not pay enough on their bills, the money in the estate would go to cover the bills. If the estate does not have enough money to cover the bills, the two options are either to check if the deceased had an insurance policy that would pay out on the result of their death, such as a payment protection policy. The other option is that the relatives are liable. In the instance that there was a joint account held by the deceased, the other holder of the account is liable.

The probate process can be a complex one when there is a will, and there are people named in the will as the executor of the estate. In the event that there is no will, the probate process becomes a much longer and drawn out affair. In this instance, you will need to go down the legal route and speak to a lawyer. You also need to apply for a document that will make you the administrator of the estate. The way the administrator is determined is based on a set order of priority and is usually who is the closest in terms of relation. The order of priority is usually this:
  1. Married or civil partner of the deceased.
  2. Child of the deceased.
  3. Grandchild of the deceased.
  4. Parent of the deceased.
  5. Sibling of the deceased.
  6. Nephew or niece of the deceased.
  7. Another relative of the deceased.
Unfortunately, a person who is an unmarried partner or same-sex partner who hasn’t been named in the will is unable to act as an administrator. If the deceased has left a will, it will ultimately make the whole probate process much easier, but this can still take a long time, depending on the size of the estate. The larger the estate, it usually means there are more legal hoops to jump through.

The will itself will be subject to scrutiny from all angles. Sometimes there may be an issue with the will, or it may be contested by others for various reasons. This is, unfortunately, a common occurrence, and the best approach is, to prevent any more delays, to seek legal advice on the matter. There are firms, such as Brooks, Leboeuf, Bennett, Foster, & Gwartney P.A that specialize in helping to either draft wills or to seek a speedy resolution to the issue. By seeking legal advice, it can add more fuel to the fire, but when there is a contesting in the will, the best way is to get the problem resolved with as little fuss as possible. This can be heartbreaking for people involved, because of the fact that it is something else adding to the stress, but if it isn’t dealt with early on, it can take years to get sorted.

As the will should clearly set out the fine details of the estate, this will make for an easier process in terms of the sharing of the estate and the probate process. Depending on the details of the will and the amount of estate that needs to be shared out, this will affect the amount of time it takes. If you are looking to get probate for a relative’s estate, it can take months and then another year on top to finalize the administration. If the will is very clear in who gets the finances, for example, if it all goes to charity, the whole process can be over in a matter of weeks. On the other hand, the process can take years. It can be frustrating, especially if you are feeling pressured to get the estate issues sorted as soon as possible, but the best advice is to take your time and make sure you understand every aspect of being an executor or administrator of the estate.

What can you learn from this? The bottom line of the matter is; if you haven’t already created a will, then this is something that you really need to think about. By creating a will that marks out what your estate is and how it is to be shared out, in terms that are clear and to the point, it will avoid the major headaches that it can cause your loved ones. If you are currently in a relationship but are not married, this can cause issues for your partner if you were to pass away and wish them to take over the estate. When an estate of a deceased person comes into question, there are many issues that need to be addressed, and it can be a myriad of information. There can be arguments over aspects of the will that are unclear, so by making your will easy to understand and knowing exactly what you have that makes up your estate, from shares you had 30 years ago, to your home, you need to be as clear as water in each aspect. So, if you haven’t set out a will giving clear details as to who receives what, and making sure that it is free from errors and ambiguities, it is now time to make sure that is done.

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