Probate & Small Estates

Settling Estates After the Death of a loved One

The death of a loved one is a hard thing to go through. People need time to grieve, while still left to finalize their loved one’s affairs. Joe Kaufman and his team are dedicated to helping our clients sort out these affairs. Here are a few things to consider and investigate following the death of a loved one:

  • What are the names of the decedent’s surviving next of kin (i.e. a spouse, children, parents, siblings). Depending on survivorship, these individuals are considered as heirs of the estate. Heirs are notified of any estate proceeding.
  • What assets were owned solely by the decedent? For example, who is listed on the deed to real property, the titles to vehicles, owner on bank accounts, beneficiaries on investment and retirement accounts? The solely owned assets may be subject to a probate or small estate proceeding to legally transfer ownership to those entitled.
  • Did the decedent have a Will? If so, this is considered a testate estate and its beneficiaries are considered as devisees. The court will always try and honor the terms of a legally executed Will unless the devisees of the Will agree otherwise. The court will allow distribution of the assets once all creditor and tax matters are resolved. Devisees are notified of any estate proceeding.
  • If the decedent did not have a Will, this is considered an intestate estate. This means that any remaining at distribution will be equally divided among the decedent’s heirs, unless they agree otherwise.
  • What are the known creditors of the estate? Are there outstanding loans, credit card bills, medical bills, support obligations, etc.? They will need to be notified of the decedent’s death.

Estate proceedings are put in place by law not only to protect the heirs and devisees interest in an estate but also to protect the rights of creditors who may be owed money at the time of the person’s death. Joe Kaufman can answer questions to help determine how to settle your loved one’s affairs.

The value of the estate determines what, if any, estate proceeding is necessary. A small estate proceeding is a little less complicated, and an Affiant swears to satisfy all creditor and tax matters. A formal probate is overseen by the court, a personal representative and an attorney. There are more required actions in a formal probate.

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