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What Should You Do When a Parent Passes Away?

Benjamin Franklin famously said, “…in this world, nothing is certain except death and taxes.” Although you know that death is inevitable, it is never easy when a parent passes away. Suddenly, you are left to handle many matters and affairs that you may not have been prepared for. There are a number of things you will need to do when a parent passes away. A knowledgeable attorney will help you with the legal aspects of the death of a parent.

Locate Important Papers

One of the first things you will need to do when a parent passes away is to locate their important documents. You will need to find their will, insurance documents, banking records, real estate deeds, car titles, bills and credit card statements, storage unit information, tax details, and social media information. You will also want to obtain a list of passwords so you can make sure you have access to accounts and can properly secure them. Hopefully, your parents have a binder or folder where you will find all the necessary paperwork.

Make Burial Arrangements

One of the most important but necessary tasks that you will immediately face is making burial arrangements. Contact a funeral home to make the necessary arrangements. Generally, you will need to pay the funeral home and may then be reimbursed from any insurance claim or from the parent’s estate. You should request a number of death certificates because you will need them for various requests in the coming weeks. You may want to order at least ten death certificates so you won’t have to order more later when they could hold up your filings.

File for Probate

In Wisconsin, if an estate is worth $50,000 or more, probate is required. Probate is also necessary when there is no will. Probate is the process in which the decedent’s affairs are handled, and any inheritance is distributed to the heirs. If there is a will, the estate will be dispersed accordingly. If there is no will, the estate will be distributed according to the law. The court will appoint an executor or administrator to take care of the probate process. The decedent may name the executor in the will.

Take Care of the Estate

The administrator is responsible for taking care of the estate. The administrator must take control of the bank accounts and handle the affairs that are outstanding at the time of the parent’s death. The administrator must pay bills and other expenses on behalf of the decedent. You must notify any creditors of the death and provide payment of any outstanding bills. You must also notify heirs that the person passed away. Once all of the bills are paid, the remainder of the assets can be determined. After probate is complete, the assets can be provided as per the will or the law.

Handling the many financial and personal matters of a parent can be challenging. It is often helpful to seek legal guidance throughout the process. Your lawyer will ensure that you follow the law and that all of the necessary issues are resolved through probate. To learn more about probate, contact our legal team at Moen Sheehan Meyer, Ltd. at (608) 784-8310 or online to schedule a consultation.

Published January 8, 2024
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