When someone that is close to you passes away, you may feel as though your entire world has come to a halt. The grief can be overwhelming at times which can often blind you regarding the steps that you need to take legally in terms of assets that your loved one may have left behind. The estate administration attorneys in New Jersey at Borenstein, McConnell and Calpin want to provide you with a list of steps that you should always take when a loved one passes away:
1. Take the time you need to be with your family
The passing of a loved one is a time where you and your family need to be together. Although you may be the type of person that wants to jump into working through the probate process immediately, the state of New Jersey requires that you wait 10 days to even make an appointment to officially open an estate matter at your local surrogate’s office. Also, you will need to allow time for the death certificate to be generated. Therefore, our estate administration attorneys in New Jersey recommend that you take the time you need to be with your family through this difficult time.
2. Check the death certificate and request additional ones if necessary
One of the first phone calls that you will make after your loved one dies is to the funeral home. Many people don’t realize that it is actually the funeral home director that puts in the request for a death certificate to be generated. When you speak with him or her, a good rule of thumb is to request additional copies of the death certificate so that you have one for each type of asset that your loved one may have had during their lifetime. Banks, insurance companies and the surrogate court may all require an original death certificate during the estate administration process. Moreover, often the death certificate has errors that will be hard to correct later on in the probate process. Therefore, check to make sure all of the information on the certificate, such as residence, social security number, spellings of names, etc., are all correct so that you do not have to correct them at a later date when it would be much harder to do so
3. Locate a Last Will & Testament
Ideally, before a loved one passes away, you should have an understanding of where his or her estate planning documents, such as a Last Will & Testament, are kept. If you are named as the Executor in the Will, you will need to bring that document with an original death certificate to the surrogate court where your loved one resided so that you can be formally appointed to serve in this role. If your loved one did not have a Last Will & Testament, an Administrator will need to be appointed to administer the estate. This tends to be a more costly process and requires more court oversight at times.
4. Gather any financial records or information regarding debts
Paying off debts and marshalling assets will be a major focus of your role as Executor or Administrator of an estate. As you begin to shift through the paperwork that is left behind, you should always try to locate recent bank statements or information regarding debt as these are important items that you will need going forward.
5. Hire an experience estate administration attorney in New Jersey
Trying to navigate through the estate administration process in New Jersey is something that can be incredibly overwhelming which is why you should always reach out to experienced estate administration attorneys to assist you. During your initial consultation, you should bring a copy of the Last Will & Testament with you as well as a death certificate and any information that you have regarding debts or assets of the estate. From there, a plan can be put in place for the long-term administration of the estate.