Life can change in an instant. One minute you are wondering what to make for dinner, the next you are dealing with an emergency situation for yourself or someone you love. In the face of an emergency, like a devastating medical diagnosis, things that once seemed important become meaningless. That’s when many people start thinking about having an estate plan, as discussed in the article “The will and estate plan are done, what now?” from the Brentwood Home Page.
However, once the will and the estate plan are done, the process doesn’t stop, even in the face of an urgent situation. There are still tasks that must be done, and perhaps the most important one of all is talking with family members about the plan, where it is and what your wishes are.
Many families get started on their estate plan in the attorney’s office, discussing what they want to happen to their assets, who their executor should be and how they want their end-of-life decisions to be made. However, they find it difficult to discuss with their children, and as a result, when the first parent passes, the only one who knows what the plan is (and where it is) is the surviving spouse.
Will the adult children know where to find the documents, if the surviving spouse is so bereft that he or she is not functioning well? Will the surviving spouse or the children know what the next steps should be?
Will the person who was designated the executor know that this is their role? That’s never a good thing to learn about at the last minute.
Once you’ve completed your estate plan and other related documents, don’t leave out this critical next step. The executor and those left when you (or your spouse) have passed have a big job ahead of them, and you don’t want to make it harder.
It can take months or sometimes years to settle an estate. Here are a few facts to be aware of:
- Wills and estate plans are not filed with the court before death. The estate planning attorney may have a copy, but the court will want the original documents.
- The executor will need original death certificates.
- An attorney, possibly the same one who created the estate plan, will be able to guide you through the settlement of the estate.
- Once the will is probated and the executor is appointed, beneficiaries will need to be named and creditors notified.
- The decedent’s property will need to be managed. This can be tricky, if he or she owned a business, rental properties or other assets that require on-going management.
- Final tax returns must be filed.
As you can tell, this is not a simple process. You may try to handle it on your own, but chances are you will save yourself from a good deal of stress and expensive mistakes by working with an estate planning attorney beforehand to create the estate plan, and afterwards, to help manage the estate and all of the related tasks.
Reference: Brentwood Home Page (Oct. 31, 2018) “The will and estate plan are done, what now?”