February 2011 "Dos and Don'ts When Someone Dies"
PLANNING FOR WEALTH & SECURITY
SOME DOS AND DON'TS WHEN SOMEONE DIES
By Jennifer & Jeff Hawkins, Trust & Estate Specialty Board Certified Indiana Trust & Estate Lawyers
Losing a loved one is a painful loss. The loss can be even more painful if the family and friends make the wrong moves concerning the deceased person's assets, debts, and income. Many decisions have strict deadlines and some actions are irreversible. This article identifies a few of the things people should and should not do when someone dies.
DO hire a qualified trust and estate lawyer as soon as possible. The right lawyer, if engaged early enough to be effective, can help the family sort through records and respond to issues such as Indiana inheritance taxes, federal estate taxes, credit card debts, property taxes, and hospital bills. An expert trust and estate lawyer knows all of the deadlines and how to get things done right.
DON’T throw away any papers or ignore any piece of information about the deceased person's business until speaking with a qualified trust and estate lawyer. Over the past two decades the authors have seen countless families discover very valuable assets or very expensive debts hidden among scraps of paper around the deceased person's house or apartment. Retirees from Pfizer, General Electric, AT&T, Indiana Bell, and Eli Lilly often accumulate stocks in small groups of shares and sometimes the share certificates or other important information may be stuffed in junk drawers or in bank lock boxes. Losing those pieces of information can cost the family many thousands of dollars. Also, don’t assume that the deceased person’s papers tell the whole story. An experienced trust and estate lawyer knows how to get information about certain stocks and property that may not be well documented.
DO gather copies of deeds, account statements, and insurance policies and bring them to the trust and estate lawyer at the initial meeting. The more documents and information that the lawyer receives in the initial meeting, the more responsive and effective the lawyer can be at preserving and protecting assets for the estate's beneficiaries.
DON’T respond to a phone call or written notice from someone claiming to be able to help families recover unclaimed property or lost assets without first speaking to a qualified trust and estate lawyer. Some companies offer asset recovery services for 40% of the asset value. Forgotten assets turn up on lists maintained by agencies like the Indiana Attorney General. A trust and estate lawyer’s normal trust and estate administration services should include asset recovery, so why would it make sense to pay some other company 40% of the asset’s value for the same result? It is best to take no action about a deceased person's business until the family meets with a trust and estate lawyer to discuss all of those matters. A little patience to seek a trust and estate lawyer’s care and expertise first can save a lot of money.
© 2011 by HAWKINS LAW PC, Estate, Trust, Elder Law & Business Attorneys. All rights reserved.