After someone dies, there are things that need to be done. However, there are rarely any emergencies and seeking professional guidance is prudent. Don’t start distributing all the assets, moving money from one account to another, filling out claim forms etc. In some cases, you may actually do more harm than good by launching into “action mode” after someone dies. Some people spring into “action mode” after the loss of a loved one, and that is understandable. Instead of focusing on grieving, they "get down to business" and start handling the affairs of the estate without giving things any thought. In some cases, they might distribute assets to the wrong people, act unfairly to one beneficiary or another, not provide proper access to estate planning documents, etc. In other words, they act when they may not fully appreciate what they are doing.
I've had clients call me on the way to the funeral! They ask, "Rob, my dad died this morning...what should I be doing?" I always answer the same way, "Grieve for your dad. All your dad's accounts and affairs will be the same a few weeks from now. Let's get together in a couple of weeks and outline a plan." Hasty action can sometimes cause problems. Also, keep in mind that some married couples have trusts that may split into sub-trusts upon the first spouse’s death. Many surviving spouses forget about this issue. Therefore, seeking legal counsel is often the best thing to do. It's also a good idea to talk to financial professionals to make sure your post-death actions won't trigger negative tax consequences.
If you need assistance resolving an estate after someone's death, you can make an appointment with our office to discuss your situation. Call (661) 414-7100. Also, download our checklist from the "Get Started" page. You can also visit our videos page for helpful information.
The "Trustee" is the person in charge of the Trust (if there is a living trust or other kind in effect), and the "Executor" is the person in charge of the will. In most cases, being the Trustee is the tougher job. An executor may have to go to court, but in most cases, the attorneys handle most probate-related matters. The Trustee on the other hand has to inventory all the assets and distribute them to sometimes disgruntled family members! Both jobs can be tough so make sure you select people who are willing and able to do this job.