What To Do When A Loved One Dies After a loved one dies it is never easy to make decisions concerning what to do with his or her estate. Miller, Butler, Schneider, Pawlik, & Rozzell, PLLC, have lawyers who work on probate. Probate is the term used to describe the process of transferring property from a deceased person to his heirs. Estate attorneys are necessary in most cases. Our probate lawyers can answer questions about trusts, estates and probate. This article should give you a general guideline on what to do and what to expect when a loved one passes away. We would encourage you to contact our firm in Rogers, Arkansas for legal expertise in dealing with the loss. Death Certificate Once arrangements are set, the funeral home should apply for a death certificate. It would be a good idea to ask the funeral home to obtain some extra copies of the death certificate (the larger the estate, the more copies that will be needed). If you need to obtain copies of the death certificate on your own, you may do so here: http://www.healthyarkansas.com/certificates/pdf/vr-8_death_certificate_application.pdf Find the Loved One’s Will, Trust or Other Important Documents Next, you should try to find the decedent’s will or trust, if any. These documents are often stored in a bank safe deposit box or in a safe or desk drawer at your loved one’s home. It is important to try to find the will as it specifies not only who is in charge of handling the estate (known as the personal representative) and who the beneficiaries it will also allow bonds and accountings waived which will save substantial time and money. If your loved one left a will at his or her death, the personal representative is called an executor. An executor is the person responsible for administering the decedent’s affairs. If you find a will, you should present the will to our firm and we can determine whether court procedures, such as opening a probate estate, will be required. Probate is a Court procedure used to establish the owners of the property your loved one left behind. The decedent’s trust, if any, will name a trustee. The trustee will be responsible for dispensing the decedent’s property without going through probate. No Will or Trust If no will or trust agreement can be found, the Court will appoint the personal representative which is called an administrator. Like the executor, the administrator will be responsible for transferring the decedents property to the right heirs. If a person dies without a will the State of Arkansas determines to whom the property is given. The administrator is typically the spouse, child or closest next of kin of the deceased. Inventory Property If the deceased left a will or created a trust, the executor or trustee has the responsibility to collect and inventory the decedent’s assets. If there is no will or trust agreement, the Court will select an administrator to perform this task. Our firm can help in your inventory of the property including what to do with the property based upon its form of ownership. Depending upon the size Debts It is likely that the decedent left some debts and obligations that may need to be paid. Do not pay these debts until you have contacted our firm. We will help you gather a list of all debts and obligations and determine their priority. In addition, the decedent’s estate may owe some federal and/or state taxes that will need to be paid. Taxes Generally, there are two types of tax returns that may need to be filed after the death of a loved one. One type of return is for income tax and the other is for estate or death tax. If the decedent was required to file a return and pay taxes for the year of death or any prior years, an income tax return must be filed and taxes must be paid for that year by the normal due date. Fortunately, in addition to having attorneys who handle probate and estate matters Miller, Butler, Schneider, Pawlik, & Rozzell, PLLC, also has a tax attorney who can assist in the filing of these returns. A federal estate tax return and state death tax return may also be required to be filed. We can help determine whether this is necessary and if so can help you with this process. Conclusion We realize that the shock and pain that come with the death of someone close often make it difficult to think clearly. However, it is important for you to make the right decisions in dealing with the legal issues. Miller, Butler, Schneider, Pawlik, & Rozzell, PLLC, has been assisting Northwest Arkansas for Estate and Probate matters for the last fourteen years. Our attorneys can provide the assistance you need and can alleviate the concerns and uncertainties associated with making decisions during your time of grief.