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When you lose a loved one, it can be an emotional time when you will have to make many decisions regarding final arrangements while dealing with your grief and supporting others in your life. This is also a time when surviving family and friends will have to take on responsibilities regarding the decedent’s property and debts. Knowing how to manage your loved one’s estate can help reduce some of the stress of this situation.

Estate Planning Documents

A good place to begin is to find out of if your loved one had a will or trust in place. He or she may have stored them in their home office, in a computer file, or in a bank safety deposit box. If you know the estate planning attorney who drafted their documents, you may want to contact that office and find out if they may be of assistance in locating them. If your loved one prepared a will, he or she will have named an executor who will be responsible for inventorying assets, identifying debts, and managing the distribution of the estate during probate.

Determine Survivorship

Some assets may not need to go through probate because of something called survivorship. When added to property such as a home, this provision will allow a surviving joint property owner to get the decedent’s interest in the property automatically. For married couples who own a home together with this provision, when one dies the other will get the entire interest without having to go through probate. The same may be true if the deceased owned property with others. Survivorship can also apply to financial and investment accounts.

Determining if the Case Belongs in Probate Court

Depending on the size of the estate and the type of assets, it may be possible to simplify the process and avoid probate. For instance, if your estate is worth less than $150,000, your heirs may be able to transfer the property without going to court through a simplified process. However, if you inherit real property, there may be issues with the transfer which will require a hearing. For those with property worth $150,000 in their estate, the case will probably have to go to probate court.

Intestate Succession

If you find that you are in a situation where your loved one did not have a will, then California law will determine which relatives inherit from the estate and in which order. Depending on who your survivors may be, your estate may end up being split between your spouse, children, parents, and grandparents as well as other relatives. To begin the process, you will need to notify the probate court of your loved one’s death by filing a petition for probate.

There are several matters to consider when it comes to managing a loved one’s estate and navigating the law and rules of the probate court can be overwhelming. The best course of action is to contact an estate planning attorney who can help you understand your options and obligations. At the Law Office of Alice Salvo, we understand the issues which can arise when a loved one passes away and can help you make informed decisions regarding their estate. Contact us today for a free consultation. /