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How should a loved one's estate be handled?

Losing a loved one is always tragic. When that happens, it can be challenging to focus on the attendant legal issues if you are a trustee or executor of the estate. One thing that can help is to have basic questions about the estate addressed.

What should I do about the will?

The will is a binding legal document, but it needs to be filed with the court. The deadline for doing so is 30 days after the death of the person who wrote it. Since filing the will with the court is a simple task, it is best to get it completed early.

How do I organize the paperwork of the estate?

It is a good idea to contact the person's attorney, as well as his or her financial advisor and accountant. Those people can to help to gather the paperwork that you will need.

What paperwork is most important?

The most important paperwork includes the financial and ownership records of the person who died. You'll want to assemble his or her bank statements, tax records, life insurance documents, real estate deeds and vehicle titles. In essence, you'll want all paperwork that shows the person's assets and liabilities.

What needs to be done to get life insurance money?

If you determine that the person had a life insurance policy and that you are a beneficiary of it, you'll need to mail a copy of the death certificate to the insurance company. This may need to be a certified copy, which you can get from your local Office of Vital Statistics.

What about Social Security and taxes?

If the person was receiving Social Security payments, you should notify the Social Security Administration so they can stop those payments. You can also check to see if you are eligible for death benefits. Regarding taxes, make sure to file a final return for the person and pay any amount that is due.

An experienced attorney can help you to address these issues, the distribution of property and much more.

Source: Mesquite Local News, "Basic Steps Upon Death of a Loved One," Clifford Gravett, May 18, 2017

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