If your spouse has recently passed away, and didn't create trusts for their estate, there's a good chance that you'll have to go through a probate court. While probate courts can be time-consuming, they don't need to be exhaustive. Here are four steps to take to avoid problems.
Avoid the Obituary
When someone passes away, most people place an obituary in the newspaper, or through an online source. However, that can lead to serious headaches for the loved ones left behind. If your loved one has passed away, you need to avoid running an obituary. First, creditors watch the obituaries, which means you could end up with a long line of creditors looking to take payment from the estate. Next, long-lost friends start coming out of the woodwork looking to cash in once they read an obituary. Finally, scammers take advantage of obituaries to steal identities, or rob the homes of those who have recently passed away. To avoid these potentially serious problems, avoid the release of an obituary.
Contact the Probate Court
Now that your spouse has passed away, you'll be required to contact the probate court. They'll be able to help you determine what assets will need to be entered into the probate system. Assets that are jointly owned will not need to go through probate. However, real estate that doesn't specify joint ownership on the deed or title, and other assets that aren't jointly owned will need to go through probate. If you shared joint ownership over your assets, and you have documentation showing joint ownership, those assets will not need to go through probate. Those assets will pass right to you.
Gather the Will
If your spouse left a will, you'll need to gather that, and any other important papers relating to their estate. Once you have the will, you'll need to start notifying those individuals who are listed in the document, especially those who were designated recipients of items contained in the will. However, don't start dividing the will until it has gone through the probate process.
Hire an Attorney
Now that you've gathered the will and contacted the probate court, you'll need to hire an attorney – if you haven't already done so. Working with an attorney is the best way to avoid trouble with the probate process. Be sure to provide your attorney with all the documents pertaining to your spouse's estate.
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