What Legal Matters to Address When Loved One Dies Unexpectedly

This post describes what estate legal issues typically get addressed after the unexpected death of a loved one.

Many people pass away after a long life due to natural causes, or they pass away after a prolonged illness. The death does not come as a shock or surprise to survivors, and the legal affairs are often in order with trusted loved ones having access to all of the estate information.

However, sometimes death comes completely unexpected, perhaps due to a medical issue (for example, a heart attack) or due to some type of accident. When this happens, questions often instantly arise among the survivors. Questions like:

Did he have his legal affairs in order?

Did she have a will or a trust?

How do we cover funeral expenses?

What did the deceased own and owe?

How will income taxes be handled?

What happens to all personal effects?

How do we deal with the deceased's business?

How do the monthly bills keep getting paid?

Who is responsible for dealing with all of this?

All of these questions that survivors have often lead to a statement, "We need to talk to an estate lawyer."

Perhaps the best reason to talk to an estate settlement lawyer sooner rather than later is because there is so much uncertainty that can be eliminated by talking to an estate attorney that can quickly map out a suggested plan of action to deal with the various estate issues involved.

If you are in this circumstance, make sure you quickly locate the last will and testament or trust of the deceased - the last will needs to be filed at the courthouse.

Although every estate settlement is unique, it often helps when all of the "parties" gather together for a meeting with the estate attorney. The "parties" will include the executor that is named in a will, along with all of the people who will inherit from the deceased.

These parties often have questions and they may be nervous that estate issues will be handled improperly. However, when all of the parties get together with an estate attorney who can lay out a plan for getting all matters addressed, the parties often start gaining peace of mind. When the parties know that communication will flow freely, and there will be transparency throughout the estate settlement process, heirs start to let their guard down because they know that their rights are going to be preserved. It's usually the failure to communicate, and the uncertainty from the failure to communicate, the causes heirs to lose trust in one another, and then relationships get damaged - often permanently.

Even though every estate settlement is different, most start with the family producing the last will and testament, and then the estate attorney prepares and files the necessary court pleading at the courthouse, to get the executor "confirmed." If no last will and testament exists, then the court will often appoint an "administrator" to handle the things that an executor would have handled if an executor was named in a will.

Once the executor is confirmed by a judge, or an administrator appointed by a judge, then that personal representative can gain access to information from third parties regarding estate details, and the personal representative can open an estate account and get access to the deceased's previously frozen accounts.

From there, a good estate attorney will develop a good short and long term plan for dealing with the various estate issues, and few surprises will surface during the process because a good estate settlement plan was created from the get-go.

This post is for informational purposes only and does not provide legal advice. Please do not act or refrain from acting based on anything you read on this site. Using this site or communicating with Rabalais Estate Planning, LLC, through this site does not form an attorney/client relationship.

Paul Rabalais

Louisiana Estate Planning Attorney

www.RabalaisEstatePlanning.com

Phone: (225) 329-2450