What happens when my loved one dies?
What happens to their body?
When a loved one passes away there is often a brief period of chaos in the beginning where all the pressing details of funeral arrangements and emotions must be handled. Hopefully your loved one made clear how they wished for their remains to be taken care of.
Often people are too busy during this process to look for documents such as Wills and other estate planning paperwork. These documents may or may not provide direction as to the person’s last wishes with regard to a funeral, cremation, body donation, religious rites or any other particular issue concerning the final disposition of their body. I advise all of my Clients to be sure their next of kin knows what their wishes are because often times, the documents that I have drafted get overlooked during the first few days after passing.
What happens to their belongings?
After the dust settles, loved ones must figure out what to do about all of the “stuff” owned by the decedent. How to go about dealing with that stuff will depend greatly on that person’s estate plan, if they had one, what type of property the person owned and what bills they owed.
What was your loved one’s estate plan?
If a person passes away without a Will, or with just a Will, then their property must pass through the Probate Court process. This process takes a minimum of six (6) months to a year to get finalized with the Court. The Probate Court provides access to a number of reference materials they have put together to make the process easier for non-lawyers who are attempting to probate their loved one’s estate on their own. Pamphlets with information and checklists to help guide non-lawyers are provided here: http://www.courts.state.nh.us/probate/estate.htm
If a person passes away with a more advanced estate plan that includes a Trust, which is properly funded, then the decedent’s property will be distributed without the oversight or intervention of the Court. A Trust is often overlooked by people who are under the impression that Trusts are for wealthy people looking to avoid paying taxes. Trusts are in fact much more commonly used as a probate avoidance tool in order to ease the process of the distribution of assets and to minimize fees paid out for Court and/or attorney’s fees.
What type of assets did your loved one own at the time of their death?
Certain assets that are jointly owned may go directly to the surviving joint owner without the need of a Trust or Probate Court. Other assets that may be able to pass outside the Court process include things such as life insurance, payable on death accounts and certain real estate.
Consult with an Attorney
The answer to what happens when my loved one dies is rarely a simple answer and more often has a number of important moving parts that must be dealt with in the right way and in the right order. The attorneys at Morneau Law can provide the support necessary to get through the process of dealing properly with your loved one’s estate in whatever form it may be in. If you have any questions or have just lost a loved one, please call us in Nashua, NH at 943-5647 to set up an appointment and speak with one of our attorneys.