Few things in this world are as devastating as losing a partner. If you have suffered the loss of your life partner, our heart goes out to you. As Newport Beach estate planning lawyers, we understand how the grief can be debilitating, and the last thing you want to think about is your “to do” list. Addressing that list often makes people feel like they are leaving their partner behind.
We often tell our clients that it is perfectly fine to give yourself a recovery period after the passing of your partner before making any important decisions, especially those of a serious financial nature. The two most obvious reasons for waiting on decisions in this manner are that (1) you are emotionally and mentally exhausted, and (2) you may be accustomed to receiving input on important decisions from your partner. Plus, as terrible as it sounds, there are people out there who may try to take advantage of you by catching you off guard in a fragile state.
However, when the time comes when you are ready to tackle important tasks, it’s a wise idea to seek out professional help or have an extra set of eyes on the decisions you are making. A trusted financial advisor, attorney, accountant, or even a friend or family member who understands financial matters can certainly help in this regard.
Starting the Estate Administration Process
When it’s time to start the estate administration process, you’ll need a number of financial documents handy in order to make sense of what may be required of you. Documents you will likely need to gather include:
- Social Security numbers
- Birth and marriage certificates
- Titles to vehicles
- Company benefit booklets
- Power of Attorney documentation
- Bank and brokerage account statements
- Military discharge papers
- Insurance policies
You’ll also want to gather bills and statements that reflect any debt or liabilities. This includes tax bills, mortgages, utilities, car payments, insurance premiums, and credit cards. You need to keep up with these bills in a timely fashion to avoid costly late charges and other consequences (e.g. negative marks on your credit if you have joint accounts).
We also recommend ordering between ten (10) and twenty (20) copies of your partner’s death certificate. You will need a death certificate for a variety of tasks and it will help make life easier for you if you have a number of official documents on hand.
Finally, the process to close out your loved one’s estate will depend on what type of planning he or she had in place at the time of death. Even if your partner had a will and you are named as Executor, you will still need to go through a formal process called Probate with the local courts to finalize his or her affairs. If your partner did not have a will and you are not legally married, you will want to consult with a probate lawyer here in Orange County about your rights, as the laws of succession give priority to blood relatives. If your partner had a Living Trust, you may still need to deal with the probate court in the event that an asset was overlooked and left out of the document. Again, an attorney who focuses on Orange County probate and trust administration can help you determine what to expect and the steps you may need to take.
Reduce Impact by Planning Ahead
Do not forget that our team at Morgan Law Group is here to help. Whether you recently lost a partner and need help navigating probate, trust administration, or your general responsibilities ahead, we would be happy to meet with you to discuss your needs. Simply contact our office at (949) 260-1400 to schedule a consultation.