Keep calm. Keep calm.
Likely you know that your recently deceased loved one had a will and/or a trust.
What steps should you take?
This topic is addressed in a recent New Jersey 101.5 article titled "What steps to take when you lose a will.
According to the article, there are plenty of clues you can use to track it down.
Here is a summary list of recommendations from that article:
- Check to see if the will has already been admitted to "probate" with the probate court in the county where your loved one resided at death. If an attorney or other family member had the original (or knew where to find it), then he or she may have filed it already. Wills become public documents once filed.
- Check to see if there is a safe deposit box owned by your loved one. Oftentimes wills and other important legal and financial documents are kept there.
- Review the checkbook or bank statements of your loved one for any fees paid to an estate planning attorney. Striking gold here may mean finding the attorney who will either have the original will and/or trust or at least a signed copy.
- Look for any business cards or correspondence with a financial advisor who may know the attorney if not the location of the legal documents.
- Contact the accountant, too. Tax returns and account statements could have helpful information.
- Perhaps your loved one hid the legal documents. This would not be the first time. For example, I have clients who keep their original documents in the freezer.
- Reach out to relatives and close friends. Perhaps they know whether your loved one ever consulted an estate planning attorney or a financial advisor. They may have referred your loved one to their own attorney or financial advisor.
One caveat to all of this? Even if you locate the documents, you may not be able to get information from the attorney or the bank ... if you were not appointed as executor or trustee.
In the end, if there is no will or trust, then an attorney can assist you with applying to the probate court to be appointed as an administrator.
As you can see, communication is essential to the ultimate success of any estate plan.
In this case, it all begins with sharing the location of your legal documents and the names of your professional advisors.
Consult an experience estate planning attorney who can make everything is ship-shape.
Remember: “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” When making your financial, tax and estate plans, do not go it alone. Be sure to engage competent professional counsel.
For more information about estate planning in Overland Park, KS (and throughout the rest of Kansas and Missouri), visit our estate planning website and be sure to subscribe to our complimentary estate planning e-newsletter while you are there.
Reference: New Jersey 101.5 (January 13, 2016) "What steps to take when you lose a will"