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Tips for the recently widowed

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Question:  My husband recently passed away without a will.  I don't have a lot of business or legal experience.  What do I do now?

 

Answer:  The steps that need to be taken depend upon the size of your husband's estate, the state in which you live, and the kind of property involved, so you should seek the advice of competent legal counsel immediately.  However, the major steps that you will probably need to complete, after meeting with legal counsel, are as follows:

  • Obtain Death Certificates.
  • Have the attorney open a probate estate if your husband had more assets in his name alone (as opposed to assets owned jointly with you or of which you are beneficiary) than are permitted to pass without a probate in your state.
  • Locate names and addresses of all heirs, which include children and children of deceased children.
  • Notify Social Security and/or Veterans Administration of your husband's death.
  • Prepare a list of all assets owned by your husband in his name alone showing approximate value of each asset.
  • Pay any costs or expenses required.  Keep a record of payment that includes, check number, to whom paid, why paid, and amount.
  • If there are other heirs, like children, keep accurate record of the time spent by you on estate business including any monies expended on behalf of the estate.
  • Notify all Banks, Insurance Companies, Investment firms, and Companies where your husband had assets in his name alone and ask for appropriate forms to transfer the asset.
  • Protect the assets by maintaining insurance on the real estate, autos, boats, etc.
  • Have an accountant to prepare all of the state and federal income and estate tax returns required, and obtain appraisals if needed to be attached to the returns. 
  • Determine current bills outstanding as well as other debts, such as mortgages.
  • Gather the following documents for the attorney:

-Deed or title policy for all real property including latest tax bill.

-Titles to automobiles, boats, airplanes, etc. including insurance policies.

-Life Insurance Policies.

-Statements for Bank, mutual funds, stock, bonds, Annuities, pension or profit sharing plans, IRAs and the like.

-Shares of stock and record books for any business he owned.

 

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