When it comes to estate planning, probate is one of those things that almost everyone tells you to avoid. This is with good reason: while probate is an occasionally necessary part of the estate planning process, it is almost never to the benefit of your beneficiaries. It complicates what should be the relatively simple process of transferring your assets over to your loved ones, not to mention costing them a lot of money and time.

At the end of the day, we all want to know that our estate will be managed fairly and equitably when we’re gone and that our assets will go to the right people in a timely manner. By taking a few steps to avoid a drawn-out probate period, you can rest assured that your loved ones won’t be left waiting for the court to decide who gets what. But people often have a lot of questions that go unanswered or incorrectly answered, so I’ve put together correct answers for some of the most common questions out there.

Do I need to have a will?

You’ve probably heard someone say, “You need to have a will.” Most people who say that (or hear that) don’t necessarily know what it actually means. They don’t know that a lot of times wills don’t get used when someone dies. A will is basically your instructions to the court after you die. Not everybody needs a will because we don’t have to end up in probate. So even if someone has a will, we may not ever see it because we didn’t go through probate because it didn’t have assets to require it. 

Probate means that we had a will – a last will and testament. It says something like, “Here are my instructions. Here’s the person I want to be in charge. Here’s what my family looks like. Here’s how I want things distributed. And in the process, whether I want the person to be bonded.” There are a number of little things you put into a will to give instructions to the court. 

In one of my educational articles, I talk about what a will looks like for young families. If you’ve got children under 18, the will tells the court who you want to be the guardian. So to have a will, basically you put down some things, we formalize it and we put it in the back of a folder someplace. Then if we ever end up in probate, we pull that will out and submit it to the court for the court to approve. 

What is probate?

Probate in Indiana is an administrative process after someone dies. It’s important to understand you could have $1,000,000 in your name right up to the point when you die, but based on how it’s owned, beneficiary statements, trusts, and all sorts of different things, after you die, you have nothing in your name. When you die, there’s this little magic moment where nonprobate transfers happen and joint ownership moves a property out of that person’s name. 

We don’t know what’s in the estate or we don’t know whether the estate is solvent or not. So we don’t pay creditors thinking, “You’re going to get paid back from the estate.” The state of Indiana keeps threatening to change this, but there are a lot of attorneys that make a lot of money in probate. So I think it’s an uphill battle. Also, the state itself needs to have probate happen so it can get paid back. There are a couple of things that are going to keep it where it is for now. 

Beginning July 1, 2018, IC 29-1-7-7(d), regarding a Notice of Administration in a probate estate, is amended to state that a Notice of Administration regarding any decedent who was at least 55 years of age at the time of death must be sent to Indiana Medicaid Estate Recovery as a reasonably ascertainable creditor. Therefore, if the deceased is 55 or older, you have to tell the state when someone dies so they can make a claim against the estate. 

In any circumstance where there’s a countable asset or assets that add up to more than $50,000, the state wants to be involved in that process and we take it through the court in the county where the person passed. For example, the deceased person has $50,000 in the bank, the house he or she lived in was only in his or her name and the house itself was worth $100,000 net after paying off a loan. The person has an expensive car and a boat. These are the types of things that trigger probate.

I’ve even had situations where they didn’t fill out a life insurance policy properly, and since they didn’t have a beneficiary, it bounces back into the estate. 

What’s the difference? Unsupervised Probate VS Supervised Probate

There are a couple of different types of probate. There’s unsupervised and supervised. Unsupervised is the most common and ideal.

> Unsupervised Probate

Unsupervised probate is where we go to the court, we open the estate, we have somebody appointed, and then we go off and we do the estate stuff. Then at the end, we report back to the court that everything was done properly and we want the court to sign off on it being closed. We’re doing work outside of court. We don’t have to be in court every time we do something. So it’s much more efficient. I can charge less as your attorney and we get it done! I even offer a base rate for this option.

> Supervised Probate

Supervised probate means that the court is going to be involved in every decision made: whether something’s going to be sold, what the attorney’s fees are going to be, which creditors are going to be paid, the order of the creditors, and many other things. Everything you do has to go through court. A supervised estate is going to take a long time because it’s not like the court is just sitting there waiting for us to drop in one day. To have a court hearing, there is on average close to a month from the date where you request the hearing before you can have the hearing. Part of it is you have to give notice of the hearing. Part of it is the court’s calendar is very full. Attorneys are going to charge every time we have to go to court and send out notices and prep all the material for the court for each hearing. So it gets to be very expensive. 

Sometimes supervised is necessary because people don’t get along. And the only way that we’re going to work through the estate process is to have the court involved. The big winner in that is the attorneys because they are the ones that are getting paid for all this extra work. Even when you have a really big estate, which is where you may have some of these other circumstances, the attorneys are going to be charging a lot in fees because it’s a very rigorous process. 

The other component to define what type of probate we’re going to have is whether there was a will or not. 

What happens when someone dies without a will? 

If we don’t have a will, we have what’s called intestate probate. In the case where there is no will, we look at the rules in the state laws of Indiana and it says something along the lines of, “Okay, if a person doesn’t have a will, here’s what we would assume the person would have wanted.” We still go to court. There’s a population of people that the court may choose to appoint as the personal representative, which is the person who oversees the process. Then we work through the process. 

Ultimately, there’s a distribution strategy that the state has assumed that the person would want. If you have children and a spouse, half of the proceeds go to the spouse and half goes to your children. If you don’t have a spouse, it all goes to all your children equally. 

What is a Personal Representative?

Personal representative (PR) is not a term that a lot of people are familiar with. The term personal representative is the generic term. If you have a will your executor is the person who executes the wills plan. If you don’t have a will, then we have an administrator of the person that administers the estate based on the intestate rules, or the personal representative. The PR is the person who manages the affairs of the probate. 

How much does a Probate Attorney cost?

The fees that attorneys charge run a big gamut. 

> Percentage Based

There’s a group of attorneys out there that say, “Let’s look at the size of the estate and take a percentage of that as the fee.” Doesn’t matter how complicated it is, that’s what they’re going to bill against. In a supervised probate, you have to get all your fees approved by the court, you get those after the fact. 

> Maximum Allowed

If you look at the rules, they say that there are max fees to be charged on a supervised estate. I see a lot of attorneys just use that as their fee-setting tool. I don’t know why, but that’s why probate is very lucrative for law firms. 

> Hourly 

The other thing is sometimes attorneys will do it just on a straight-up hourly basis, “Here’s my hourly rate. Here’s what I think are the approximate hours it will take to get through this process, give or take.” And obviously, they will charge if it goes over more. 

> Flat Fee 

That’s my approach, “More often than not, this is what probate takes for me to get done, so  here’s the fee for that.” Uncontested. Unsupervised. Intestate or otherwise. 

My flat fee for intestate probate is $3,200 and that covers everything. However, there are some caps on that. If it gets if somebody comes back and starts making a mess of it or we end up with creditors beyond a certain number, then then we’ll talk about what that means to the fee. This base fee of $3,200 covers most of the cases I work on – probate uncontested, unsupervised, intestate or testate. 

How long does probate take?

Assuming that we don’t need a hearing to appoint a PR, the length of time by the time we go through the process if we’re going unsupervised is on average about a year. Below is a step-by-step list of the process of Probate. However, it is important to know that your family does not have to go through Probate when you’ve left them behind. You just need to set everything up properly while you’re still here. I’ll share more about what that looks like further below. 

> Opening the Probate

We submit a document, open the probate and have the court appoint our nominated PR. There’s consent signed by the heirs of the estate to agree to that person being appointed in an unsupervised capacity. If we can’t get that, then we have to go to a hearing to a point which now delays the process. It may take us a month just to get the consent sign, get the paperwork back and forth, get it into the court and get it signed. So there’s a period of time from the starting point to the point where we actually have a PR who can start doing things.

> Submitting a Claim Notice

Once the PR is appointed, we have to publish the opening of the estate in a newspaper and of general circulation in the county of the probate. So it runs in back-to-back weeks and says, “If you have a claim, here’s the process you need to follow.” We send out notices to creditors, and we send out notices to the heirs to say, “the estate is opened, and here’s the person in charge.” 

> The First 90-Day Period

We go through this 90-day period from the first date of publication where any creditor claim out there needs to be made, whether it’s a credit card, the guy that is cutting the grass that thinks he needs to get paid, someone who just bubbles up and says, that guy owes me money. They have to submit a claim to the attorney at that point. Credit cards or other claims that might be against the estate are subject to that 90-day period.

At the end of 90 days, that claim period closes. Now, there are a few creditors who aren’t limited by the 90-day period: the state of Indiana, Medicaid, SSI, SNAP, and TANF to name a few. There are several agencies that if the state put money out after the age of 55, it can make a claim against the estate and is not limited by the 90-day period. It’s important to understand if the person has received those funds potentially, so we can get that notice out as quickly as we can to the state. The federal agencies, such as the IRS, kind of live in their own world for claims, and they’re also not limited by the 90-day period. Secured liens against property and judgments against property are already there. They have to get paid when that property is sold, so there isn’t a 90-day claim period on that. 

During that 90-day claim period, we’ll gather the assets, gather the property, close bank accounts up into an estate account, and get our hands around the stuff in someone’s house. If we’re listing a property for sale, we’ll be getting it prepped and sold during this time. 

> Pay Creditors

After 90 days, we look and see what we’ve got. We do the math and figure out if we have anything with the state or someone that might be outside the 90 days. At 90 days, we can start to do the math on what we owe. We can start to do the math on what the assets are and see if we’re going to be solvent (having assets in excess of liabilities; able to pay one’s debts). Something that sometimes happens, is that the owed is greater than the assets and we end up short. So then we have to do some other math and do some other things to work through that process. 

Once everything is collected and we know who our creditors are, we get our creditors paid and we calculate that there’s some amount that’s going to be distributed we can send out. We’re keeping an accounting of everything in and everything out. We send that out to the heirs and we say, “Okay, here’s what we’ve done.” This step could be nine months after we start; it could be a year after we start; it could be more – just depends on where we are, where we are in the process, and the complexity of the assets and gathering or selling a property. That’s what dictates time sometimes.

> Heirs Agreement

When we’ve got everybody paid we can send out accounting to the heirs and say, “Here’s what we’ve done, here’s what’s left, here’s what everybody’s shares are going to be. And if you agree to this, sign this consent and send it back.” We submit that to the court to say, “We’ve done all the work, we’ve got all the paperwork. We’re just telling you it’s all good and everybody’s in agreement based on these consents. If you want the paperwork, we can give it to you. Otherwise, we’re asking you to sign off on the fact that we’re going to start to close this.” 

> Heir Distribution

Once we get that signed, we can distribute to heirs at least a portion of what’s due – sometimes holding some back to cover final taxes and other expenses that might come up. 

> The Second 90-Day Period

We start a new 90-day period and this is a claim period for someone that doesn’t feel that they were done right. It must be an interested party (someone who potentially receives something under the will’s terms, such as money or property). They have to file a claim in court and make a case for why they should be paid more or why their payment wasn’t right, whatever it might be – or that they were left out and they shouldn’t have been left out. So there’s this 90-day period for an interested party to file a claim and it has to be filed in court. That one doesn’t go to the attorney, it has to be in court, and then we have a hearing to determine whether it’s appropriate or not. 

So that’s the process if nothing happens. More often than not, it doesn’t. So at the end of that 90-day period, we submit something to the court and say, “We’re good. Can you sign an order to close?”

> Order To Close

We get an order to close and it’s done! To get all that done in six months is just not possible because you’ve got two 90-day windows and you’re often not starting for a month. You’re already past that. But most of the projects I work on, we get wrapped in a year, maybe just after depending on property and sale. That’s the probate process. But not everybody needs probate. 

Do I have to go through Probate?

We don’t know if you’re going to need probate until we go through the process of determining the value of an estate. We don’t know what’s going to be in the estate until we get a chance to start gathering information. We don’t know what we need to do until we can make some determinations. So let’s work through the process together as we see fit. And then if we don’t have probate, there’s an alternative means by which we can work through called Small Estate Administration. 

If you’d like your loved ones to avoid having to go through probate after you pass, we can get a plan in place now while you’re still alive. You can schedule a free call with me by calling my office at (219) 230-3600 and speaking to our receptionist or you can add yourself directly to my calendar by going to www.MeetWithRG.com. I look forward to the opportunity to serve you in this capacity, and I wish you well through this process.

How can CCSK Law assist me after my loved one dies?

This is something that I know is very hard and I want to make sure people do things in the right way to protect themselves, protect the estate, and work through it in the most efficient way possible. If there’s some question that you would like to talk about in your circumstance, when you’re ready to address this, please feel free to give me a call. We’ll set up an initial quick little conversation on the phone to just kind of frame up our meeting then we can get together and talk about what your circumstances are and what we need to do to walk you through the process.

I’ll let you know if you even need an attorney for your situation and if so, I’ll let you know how I can help you and what the costs look like going forward. This initial appointment is free and there are also a lot of free videos, articles, and other resources on our website that you can scan through at your leisure if you’re not quite ready to give us a call yet. If you have or know somebody that’s going through this, please feel free to pass along these resources as well. I look forward to the opportunity to help you. 

Questions to ask before you hire an attorney

  1. Would you be willing to meet with more than one person?

Would the attorney be willing to meet with more than one person, the whole family, and kind of talk through it? I don’t mind that, and actually, I think it’s a good idea for everybody to get on the same page. Maybe some people are there physically, and other people may be there through a video call or a telephone call, but at least everybody’s hearing the initial message from the beginning. And we can try to at least start with everybody on the same page. I promise you not everybody will stay there over the course of time, but at least we can say we all started in the same place and everybody understood kind of what to expect going forward.

  1. How is your fee determined?

Above, we talked about several ways that attorneys set their fees (Percentage Based, Maximum Allowed, Hourly, Flat Rate). I want to caution you about the fact that some attorneys will tell you they charge a Flat Rate, but it’s not flat across all probates, because what they’re actually charging is the Maximum Allowed but they pass it off as a “flat rate” because the maximum you can charge is a flat percentage, but not a flat dollar amount. This “flat rate” is based on the value of the estate and the state of Indiana is not necessarily fond of this fee structure. A lot of different counties have, in their ethics references that the probate shouldn’t be set on a value. Sadly, oftentimes what I’ve heard people quoted by attorneys that charge this way is the max value for a supervised estate formula. So if someone starts saying to you, “Well, I can charge 6% on the first hundred thousand, 4% on the next two hundred thousand, and 2% on…” They’re rattling off this formula “6, 4, 2, 1” – which in most of the local rules that I’ve read in the counties that I’ve done work in, this is the max value for a supervised estate. Which basically means that it is the maximum that can be charged for a supervised estate. It’s not really a flat rate and it’s not really ethical.

Remember, a supervised estate means you’re going to court for virtually every decision that you have to make. It’s going to be a much more drawn-out process because the court isn’t just waiting for you to show up one day, the court is going to require filing for a hearing and then waiting for the calendar to have an open spot, notice to be sent to everybody. There’s some built-in delay in that automatically. So I’m not a fan of supervised unless we have to do it, or it makes the most sense to do it, or someone requires it (yes, some people can require a supervised probate). But even with that, the court has to approve the fees. The reality is oftentimes courts don’t quibble with attorneys, but again, I’ll go back to the fact that that formula that I hear referenced out there is not necessarily appropriately being applied.

So ask, “How is your fee determined?” If the attorney says they charge a flat rate, ask “Is it a flat dollar amount, or is it based on the value of the estate?” And “Do you have a formula to calculate that?” Understand that you’re not asking for the actual fee, you’re asking how the fee would be determined and that gives you some way to determine if that’s an attorney you want to meet with. You may be fine with someone doing that in your estate, but I would tell you that in an estate that has a relatively simple estate that has a house worth a few hundred thousand dollars and maybe some money in the bank and some vehicles, the cost is going to be substantially different in that situation where you apply a formula versus a flat rate. But the work’s the same. So just be aware of that. The work for the most part is the same. Let me say that again. The work for the most part is the same, no matter how much or how little you pay for it!

Another thing an attorney should be able to tell you fairly early in the process is whether this looks like it’s lining up for probate or whether it’s not. Married couples in Indiana rarely need to go through probate when the first person passes because of the way assets are owned. We talk about how assets are owned and what’s in an estate here, but there’s a trigger that requires probate. If we don’t get there, there are some other documents you may need to do. And then having an understanding of what a small estate expense might be with an attorney or the series of small estate documents that might need to be completed. For example, an affidavit of survivorship, which is a legal document that removes the name of a deceased person from the title on real property. 

I would suggest downloading the “How to Hire an Attorney” brochure, penciling down some things that are pertinent to your circumstance, and then chatting with a couple of attorneys and see how that works for you.

Can I avoid probate?

Yes! If done properly, we can avoid probate altogether. Some people have trusts and the trust holds the ownership of that asset, so it’s not counted. In Indiana, we have transfer-on-death and payable-on-death options, which is kind of like putting a beneficiary on an asset that doesn’t otherwise have beneficiary provision. There are a number of factors that go into the planning process. 

Before we pass, we do a plan to avoid probate and put assets where we want them to be after we’re gone, which is called a non-probate transfer – a transfer, effective at death, by a transferor domiciled in Indiana and who immediately before death had unrestricted power over the property and its use, as defined in Indiana Code § 32-17-13-1(a). 

I had this happen a couple of times this year: Someone did not have proper beneficiaries on their life insurance or annuity, so the company says, “There’s no one named. We can’t distribute it out to someone. We’re going to pay it back into the estate.” Now in both of those situations, (one was $200,000 and the other was $95,000) it was greater than the threshold necessary for probate. Therefore, we ended up going through probate for a single asset. We wouldn’t have had to have done it all if the beneficiaries would have been named properly in the first place. We had to go through the entire probate process to move that asset to eventually beneficiaries of the estate. This is one of those things where people think “He had a will. I was in the will; it said I was in charge.” 

However, if we don’t have assets in probate, then we don’t need to probate the assets. A will is your instructions to the court to say, “Here’s who I want to be in charge, and here’s how I want things distributed after everybody else is taken care of.” We’re not in probate, so we don’t necessarily need the will. But if we don’t have enough assets to trigger probate, we may not have probate. 

This is a big misconception out there today that you need a will. In many cases, you actually need a trust, not a will. The trust is what helps keep your family out of probate after you pass. You set that up while you’re still around and it generally makes life easier for everyone involved. There are a few circumstances where we might leverage the will in smaller estates to make sure it’s distributed properly, but it’s not going through the court. We’re just leveraging the will to represent what the person’s wishes were. 

What does it mean to “spread the will of record?”

You can sometimes submit a will to the court, it’s called “spread the will of record” to put it out there so people knew the person died. I think the people who appreciate that most are genealogists, so we’ve got names and relationships in the public record. It also does some of the things to ‘start a clock’ and ‘end a clock’ and things of that nature. 

What does it mean to be disinherited?

I had a conversation with a young lady who called me because her father had passed away. He had a second marriage and he had said for years that he had taken care of her in a will. And the reality was in the second marriage, everything was owned jointly and all of those assets went to his second wife. There was no probate. There was no requirement for her to share those assets with the daughter. And she didn’t. So basically, the father who may have thought he had done the right thing to take care of his daughter, accidentally disinherited her. That is why planning is so important and why reviewing your plan regularly is crucial to not miss any updates that should be done. 

It’s important to understand, just because someone had a will doesn’t mean the will is going to have any effect on the distribution of assets. If everybody’s on the same page from this foundational starting point, it eliminates some confusion down the road when people will say, “Well, I was supposed to get that.” or “I was supposed to be in charge.” A proper plan keeps this out of probate, and that’s not a bad thing. The assets may go to people in a different way, but if you set up a proper plan before you pass, you can ensure things get to who you want them to go to. For instance, sometimes people don’t understand the fact that if they put a child on a bank account, that bank account goes to that one child, and it doesn’t go to all the children. There’s no legal requirement for that child to share it with anybody else. So sometimes that convenience thing of owning a bank account jointly becomes a detriment to the equal distribution of an estate to all children. Unfortunately, that’s not always explained to the person when they’re doing that sort of planning. 

There is a process of moving assets out of a person’s name if there is an action of law or non-probate transfer on that device, then when we begin counting if we don’t get over that $50,000 threshold, then we may not even need to get involved with the court. There are some other things called a small estate affidavit, and that leads right to step number eight. 

What is a small estate affidavit?

An Indiana small estate affidavit (or a small estate claim) is used to gather the assets of a person who has died and left behind an estate worth less than $100,000. The affidavit cannot be filed earlier than forty-five (45) days after the date of death and must be signed in front of a notary public. So, we’re going present a document to the financial institution or whoever holds that property to say, “This person died and did not need probate. Here are the rightful heirs. This person represents them or all four of them should be equally represented in the distribution of that asset to them. But we don’t need a court.” 

What is ancillary probate?

Ancillary probate is a secondary proceeding required in another state than the original probate proceeding. This secondary proceeding is required where the deceased left property or assets in more than one state, and because each state has different property laws, a probate proceeding must be made in each state where property is located. To manage the asset in that estate, you’ve got to make sure that you know where those properties are and what the process is to go through the ancillary process. I’ve had to open estates in Indiana that didn’t have any assets in it, but we had to open the probate in Indiana because that’s where the person lived in order to manage a property in Michigan or Florida or Texas. So there’s the time and cost associated with going through that probate process. And then you have to open another probate and there’s time and expense associated with that, too. 

Ancillary probate, small estates, affidavits of heirship, and devolution deeds are all fairly new vehicles in Indiana. But basically, there may be something that was owned jointly that we need to now update the world as to how that’s going to be transferred. So an affidavit of heirship, a spouse may file with the county to say, “We owned this when we were married and living, and when this person passed, we were still married.” 

What is tenancy by entirety?

In Indiana, there’s a thing called ‘tenancy by entirety’ that the survivor now has that property outright. It’s updated in the record to reflect that. Tenancy by entirety is a way for married couples to hold an equal interest in a property as well as survivorship rights, which keep their property out of probate. 

What is a devolution deed?

A devolution deed is used if we had a person that owned real estate and we didn’t need probate, but we have to go through a process of showing that the person owned it and who the rightful owners are and how we get it transferred. Devolution is when property is automatically transferred from one party to another by operation of law, without any act required of either past or present owner. The most common example is the passing of title to the natural heir of a person upon his death, a devolution deed. So that’s fairly new, still being worked through in some counties.

Some combination of the above will allow us to move assets, and sometimes that’s what happens when I do a plan. We may not have everything in a trust or transferred to somebody. We may have a few things out there, but they’re less than $50,000. So we have to find the tool to move those things. 

What is a trust?

Trust is another thing, and sometimes people will do and have a need for trust administration. A trust administration is a legal process of working through closing out a person’s affairs and then distributing the estate. A trust is a fiduciary arrangement that allows a third party, or trustee, to hold assets on behalf of a beneficiary or beneficiaries. It’s very similar in structuring and flow to probate, except it’s outside of court and it should be quicker and nimbler if everything goes right. You don’t have the same clock that you work under. Trusts usually avoid probate, so your beneficiaries may gain access to these assets more quickly than they might to assets that are transferred using a will. There are still some responsibilities the trustee has to the beneficiaries named in the trust. There are a lot of intricacies associated with those things, but it’s another process that needs to be followed. 

It’s possible that you need both probate and trust administration because something was left out of trust, so we have to go through probate. That’s why step number seven, understand what’s in the estate and what’s not, is so important. I had somebody who had a coop jag convertible, a $100,000 car. That was only in his name. He passes. He had everything else in his trust. Well, now we have a trust administration and we have a probate for the vehicle. So that is the kind of information we would need to determine in the step before this. What we find out in step seven dictates what we do in step eight. 

I hope you found this content to be valuable and a good resource to help you prioritize things and understand when you have to do things, and when you don’t have to (or shouldn’t) do things. If there’s anything that I can do to help address your specific circumstances, reserve your call and we can chat on the phone. We can set up a family meeting or a small group meeting however you want to do it and really work through your specific circumstances and understand how we need to get started and determine the timeframe of what it would take to get that rolling. 

Let’s work through the process and know that it is, in fact, a process, with things to do at particular times and things that we don’t have to do right now. So I would love to talk to you about your circumstances just to help you set a good foundation on how to move forward. I don’t charge for that meeting. Yes, really! We may not even charge for a second meeting if we have to still figure out what we need to do. But in the end, what we want to have is a good understanding of what the process is, what needs to happen when, and what doesn’t need to happen, and make sure that everybody has the same story and that we stay focused and work through it. 

You can schedule that free call with me by calling my office at (219) 230-3600 and speaking to our receptionist or you can add yourself directly on to my calendar by going to www.MeetWithRG.com. I look forward to the opportunity to serve you in this capacity, and I wish you well through this process. 

What To Do (And What Not To Do) When Someone Dies

Losing someone you love can be one of the most difficult experiences of your life. The loss tends to come with pain, shock, and overwhelming grief. The last thing that one would like to think, but eventually has to is, “What do I do now?”

Death isn’t exactly a cheery topic for common conversation. In fact, it is usually the last topic anyone wants to talk about or think about. But alas, regardless of our social disdain for considering death, it happens to the best of us. At one point or another, we lose people. And while loss is universal, our collective avoidance of the subject leaves many at a loss for what to do next when it does happen. What exactly is one supposed to do amid the sudden death of a loved one? There isn’t really a handbook or New York Times bestseller that we all turn to. Of course, there are legal and logistical actions that must and will be taken after someone dies. After all, when people die, they leave behind a life that must be closed out. The question for many, however, is “What is in that life?” 

At the end of the day, we want to grieve for and appreciate the life of our lost loved ones—not drown in complicated and confusing legal matters. Ultimately, a simple and detailed checklist could be very helpful, so I’ve created one for you here! Our team at CCSK Law wants to remove this unnecessary burden from the already trying times of loss. Therefore, we present to you the handbook you may or may not have been looking for: What to do (and what not to do) when someone dies.