Death in family (not sure how to proceed)...

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Kababayan
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Death in family (not sure how to proceed)...

Post by Kababayan » Sun Aug 25, 2019 3:03 pm

My brother in law (wife's sister's husband) passed away two days ago and my wife just flew out to help her sister take care of everything. This is new to us, so we aren't entirely sure of everything we need to do from the financial perspective. My sister in law had moved out of their home six months ago but they hadn't filed for divorce. They were doing a trial seperation, but didn't have a legal seperation. They have two kids and were sharing custody. They live in Missouri. We are trying to come up with a list of things that she should do. Any additional suggestions is greatly appreciated. Here is the list we have to far:

- Keep paying mortgage on the home that they shared for ten years (she is living in her own apartment) so she can sell it when she is ready to.
-Contact his work for any outstanding paychecks or work life insurance policies.
- Contact his work regarding his pension.
- He owned the house before they got married but did not add her to the title, so we want to contact a lawyer to either get her name on the title or find out how she can sell the house. They lived in the house for ten years before their seperation.
- Find all debts that he had (credit cards, auto loan) that may affect her.
-Contact social security to see if she can get survivor benefits...or how that works (he was early 40s.)

Is there anything else that anyone can suggest that we do? Thank you very much.

delamer
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Re: Death in family (not sure how to proceed)...

Post by delamer » Sun Aug 25, 2019 3:09 pm

Locate his will and determine who the executor of his estate is.

If it isn’t your SIL, then she needs to contact the executor and engage an attorney to look after her interest and her kids’.

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Re: Death in family (not sure how to proceed)...

Post by oldcomputerguy » Sun Aug 25, 2019 3:10 pm

Credit cards in particular need immediate attention. Were their credit cards in his name? If so, and she was just an authorized user, she may be in legal trouble if she tries to use one of "their" cards.

Using a deceased spouse’s plastic is illegal

What happens when someone dies with credit card in their name and an authorized user continues to use credit card?
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Kababayan
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Re: Death in family (not sure how to proceed)...

Post by Kababayan » Sun Aug 25, 2019 4:58 pm

Thank you everyone who has responded so far. Regarding credit cards, I wasn't sure if his debt (I don't think they have a shared credit card) would affect her credit if his cards aren't paid. I'll research that and tell her not to use any credit cards that was in his name only. I am presuming that he didn't have a will, but I'll find out. Thanks again for any suggestions.

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Re: Death in family (not sure how to proceed)...

Post by Colorado13 » Sun Aug 25, 2019 5:25 pm

Very sorry for your loss. If recurring bills (such as mortgage, water, insurance, car payments, and utilities, etc.) are on autopay, identify/make a list of those monthly expenses and ensure they continue to be paid until the estate is settled.

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Re: Death in family (not sure how to proceed)...

Post by galawdawg » Sun Aug 25, 2019 5:31 pm

Sorry for your loss. Your wife's sister should contact a trusted Missouri attorney who handles estate matters. If her husband left a will, that will name the executor and govern how his estate is distributed. If he died intestate (without a will), the probate court would need to appoint an administrator and the laws of intestate succession in Missouri will direct how the assets of the state are disbursed. I believe from a quick look at their statutes that if he died intestate, your sister-in-law would inherit $20,000 plus half of the estate, the children will inherit the remainder of the estate. Heirs receive distribution of their share of assets remaining after the debts of the estate are settled/paid which is towards the end of the probate process.

Generally, property titled jointly between husband and wife pass outside of the estate (i.e., joint financial accounts, real property titled JTWROS, and such), life insurance proceeds go to the beneficiary outside of the estate and some other assets (such as an IRA), which has a designated beneficiary pass outside of the estate as well.

This is general guidance and not intended to be legal advice as IANYL. Again, your sister-in-law should, as soon as possible, contact a trusted Missouri attorney who handles such legal matters.

delamer
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Re: Death in family (not sure how to proceed)...

Post by delamer » Sun Aug 25, 2019 5:39 pm

Kababayan wrote:
Sun Aug 25, 2019 4:58 pm
Thank you everyone who has responded so far. Regarding credit cards, I wasn't sure if his debt (I don't think they have a shared credit card) would affect her credit if his cards aren't paid. I'll research that and tell her not to use any credit cards that was in his name only. I am presuming that he didn't have a will, but I'll find out. Thanks again for any suggestions.
If he did not have a will, then the local court will appoint someone to be executor of his estate. Your sister should proceed cautiously with any financial or legal actions until she finds out whether he died intestate.

I agree with galawdawg that she should retain an attorney to guide her through this. Dying intestate with minor children is not a good scenario.

And his estate could be responsible for the credit card debt, but that isn’t the same as his wife being personally responsible. But she certainly shouldn’t use any credit card that she isn’t joint/authorized on.
Last edited by delamer on Sun Aug 25, 2019 5:44 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Death in family (not sure how to proceed)...

Post by bob60014 » Sun Aug 25, 2019 5:41 pm

Kababayan wrote:
Sun Aug 25, 2019 3:03 pm

- Keep paying mortgage on the home that they shared for ten years (she is living in her own apartment) so she can sell it when she is ready to.

- He owned the house before they got married but did not add her to the title, so we want to contact a lawyer to either get her name on the title or find out how she can sell the house. They lived in the house for ten years before their seperation.
??????, Is her name on the mortgage? How can she sell when she doesnt own it, name on title/deed etc...? How can her name be added after the fact? Just curious.

In any case, consult a lawyer!

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Re: Death in family (not sure how to proceed)...

Post by Gill » Sun Aug 25, 2019 5:56 pm

If the deceased owned the house in his name alone the house needs to be administered as part of his distributable estate. Don’t pay any bills on the house from personal funds. If there is no will an administrator must be appointed.
Gill
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billfromct
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Re: Death in family (not sure how to proceed)...

Post by billfromct » Sun Aug 25, 2019 7:30 pm

How old are the kids?

If under 19 & still in high school, they can collect SS survivor benefits based on their dad's SS account?

The money has to be spent for their expenses or benefit. Detailed records must be kept how the money is spent.

When my wife passed away, I filed for survivor benefits for the kids. Almost all the money (probably 98%) was put in their 529, taxable account, Roth IRA, etc.

I was audited couple of times & had to show how the money was spent/directed. I kept a record of how the money was spent/directed on an Excel spreadsheet & sent that in for the years of the audit.

The summer my son graduated from high school (he turned 18 the same month), I got a letter from SS saying since he turned 18 (age of majority), the money from SS should be sent back to them so they (SS) could send him (my son) a check for the money I sent to SS. The reason was since he had reached the age of majority he should have control of the money, not me.

Yea, sending a big government agency like SS a check for $40,000 or $50,000 maybe more (I don't remember how much the SS assets had grown) & expect SS to send him a check for the same amount. What could go wrong?

I told SS all the money was invested in a 529 plan, taxable account, Roth IRA, etc. & doing so would incur penalties & unesessary taxes. I told them that I would not send them the money & they could contact me to discuss. That was 10 or 12 years ago & I haven't heard back from them........yet.

You may want to google "children's social security survivor benefits".

bill

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Re: Death in family (not sure how to proceed)...

Post by LadyGeek » Sun Aug 25, 2019 7:48 pm

This thread is now in the Personal Finance (Not Investing) forum (estate).

The wiki has a comprehensive list. See: Estate planning, especially these threads:
- Bogleheads® forum topic: Death Book - A comprehensive list of essential information to help survivors manage the estate settlement process.
- Bogleheads® forum topic: "Letter of Final Instructions" - Guidance for loved ones upon a person's death. The letter provides locations of important documents and brief instructions.
- Bogleheads® forum topic: Process for surviving spouse. - Additional helpful information for survivors to manage the estate settlement process. A number of practical suggestions; such as dealing with banks, insurance companies, and utilities are discussed.
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Re: Death in family (not sure how to proceed)...

Post by Wakefield1 » Sun Aug 25, 2019 8:41 pm

bob60014 wrote:
Sun Aug 25, 2019 5:41 pm
Kababayan wrote:
Sun Aug 25, 2019 3:03 pm

- Keep paying mortgage on the home that they shared for ten years (she is living in her own apartment) so she can sell it when she is ready to.

- He owned the house before they got married but did not add her to the title, so we want to contact a lawyer to either get her name on the title or find out how she can sell the house. They lived in the house for ten years before their seperation.
??????, Is her name on the mortgage? How can she sell when she doesnt own it, name on title/deed etc...? How can her name be added after the fact? Just curious.

In any case, consult a lawyer!
So before she pays (with her money) any mortgage due she needs to make sure that she is not throwing money away on something that she might not have any inheritable recovery possible?

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Kababayan
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Re: Death in family (not sure how to proceed)...

Post by Kababayan » Sun Aug 25, 2019 10:19 pm

Thank you all so very much. I am going to forward all of these responses to her. Again, thank you for all of your help and suggestions.

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celia
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Re: Death in family (not sure how to proceed)...

Post by celia » Sun Aug 25, 2019 11:06 pm

Following the current train of thought, if she is not responsible for HIS bills, how should his funeral expenses be paid? Maybe this is a good question for the estate planning lawyer.
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Re: Death in family (not sure how to proceed)...

Post by fru-gal » Mon Aug 26, 2019 1:08 am

This is what happens when people don't make financial plans in case of their death. I had a will/revocable living trust made when I got a cat, for God's sake, and many people with kids don't.

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Re: Death in family (not sure how to proceed)...

Post by CAsage » Mon Aug 26, 2019 1:20 am

Not sure of the details in Missouri, or how his assorted assets were held. But it's possible that any of "his" debts would still have to be paid from any of his or their assets. If they were still married, legally, then the intestate laws in Missouri would apply and I have no idea what that means with regard to debts. But don't assume they just vanish, some states will go after a spouse for debt. No real advice, except find a will if there is or ever was one, and get a lawyer to advise you about the executor or the intestate laws. Social Security survivor benefits are (probably) available to the children and possibly the spouse, but I think the total amount is capped. Good luck unscrambling all that!
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Re: Death in family (not sure how to proceed)...

Post by celia » Mon Aug 26, 2019 2:18 am

fru-gal wrote:
Mon Aug 26, 2019 1:08 am
This is what happens when people don't make financial plans in case of their death.
What???

Who says they don't have a will or trust? First they have to look for it. And what do you mean by the first word: "This..."?

Do you mean he wouldn't have died?
Do you mean his SIL wouldn't have gone?
Do you mean he wouldn't have had debts?
Do you mean this discussion wouldn't have been necessary?

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Re: Death in family (not sure how to proceed)...

Post by NotWhoYouThink » Mon Aug 26, 2019 7:20 am

According to NOLO, in Missouri:
If you die with children or other descendants from you and the surviving spouse. Your surviving spouse inherits the first $20,000 of your intestate property, plus 1/2 of the balance.
So it seems likely that this will get complicated. Since the kids are minors someone (probably but not necessarily their mother) will have to be appointed by the court to manage their inheritance, which may include part of the house/proceeds from the house.

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Re: Death in family (not sure how to proceed)...

Post by fru-gal » Mon Aug 26, 2019 8:17 am

celia wrote:
Mon Aug 26, 2019 2:18 am
fru-gal wrote:
Mon Aug 26, 2019 1:08 am
This is what happens when people don't make financial plans in case of their death.
What???

Who says they don't have a will or trust? First they have to look for it. And what do you mean by the first word: "This..."?

Do you mean he wouldn't have died?
Do you mean his SIL wouldn't have gone?
Do you mean he wouldn't have had debts?
Do you mean this discussion wouldn't have been necessary?
This - this mess being discussed in this thread.
If you make a will and you don't tell anyone where it is, you haven't made plans. If the people whose lives are intertwined with yours, spouse, kids, have no idea what happens with finances if you die, you haven't made plans.

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celia
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Re: Death in family (not sure how to proceed)...

Post by celia » Mon Aug 26, 2019 11:21 am

fru-gal wrote:
Mon Aug 26, 2019 8:17 am
celia wrote:
Mon Aug 26, 2019 2:18 am
fru-gal wrote:
Mon Aug 26, 2019 1:08 am
This is what happens when people don't make financial plans in case of their death.
What???

Who says they don't have a will or trust? First they have to look for it. And what do you mean by the first word: "This..."?

Do you mean he wouldn't have died?
Do you mean his SIL wouldn't have gone?
Do you mean he wouldn't have had debts?
Do you mean this discussion wouldn't have been necessary?
This - this mess being discussed in this thread.
If you make a will and you don't tell anyone where it is, you haven't made plans. If the people whose lives are intertwined with yours, spouse, kids, have no idea what happens with finances if you die, you haven't made plans.
For all we know, the wife's sister and the deceased could have had an estate plan in place and the sister knows where it is and what to do. It is the OP that doesn't know but is asking for direction in case there isn't an estate plan.

The only "mess" I see for sure is this thread with random suggestions that might be useful or not.

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Re: Death in family (not sure how to proceed)...

Post by retiringwhen » Mon Aug 26, 2019 11:33 am

celia wrote:
Mon Aug 26, 2019 11:21 am
The only "mess" I see for sure is this thread with random suggestions that might be useful or not.
This is why it is dangerous to get legal advice on a forum...

I think the best help for the OP is the checklist of items to look for that LadyGeek posted (aka the Death Book). The rest is speculation.


BTW, I am still “young” and keep putting off the Letter of Instruction, but I think I need to get started.... My wife, who is reasonably engaged in our finances looked at me with a quizzical look the other day when I mentioned where something simple could be found wrt our accounts. It reminded me that information in my head is useless after the synapses stop firing.

delamer
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Re: Death in family (not sure how to proceed)...

Post by delamer » Mon Aug 26, 2019 11:34 am

celia wrote:
Mon Aug 26, 2019 11:21 am
fru-gal wrote:
Mon Aug 26, 2019 8:17 am
celia wrote:
Mon Aug 26, 2019 2:18 am
fru-gal wrote:
Mon Aug 26, 2019 1:08 am
This is what happens when people don't make financial plans in case of their death.
What???

Who says they don't have a will or trust? First they have to look for it. And what do you mean by the first word: "This..."?

Do you mean he wouldn't have died?
Do you mean his SIL wouldn't have gone?
Do you mean he wouldn't have had debts?
Do you mean this discussion wouldn't have been necessary?
This - this mess being discussed in this thread.
If you make a will and you don't tell anyone where it is, you haven't made plans. If the people whose lives are intertwined with yours, spouse, kids, have no idea what happens with finances if you die, you haven't made plans.
For all we know, the wife's sister and the deceased could have had an estate plan in place and the sister knows where it is and what to do. It is the OP that doesn't know but is asking for direction in case there isn't an estate plan.

The only "mess" I see for sure is this thread with random suggestions that might be useful or not.
The OP — SIL of the deceased — indicated in an earlier post that she doesn’t believe he had a will.

So many of the suggestions are being made based on that understanding.

Obviously, that needs to be determined ASAP.

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joe8d
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Re: Death in family (not sure how to proceed)...

Post by joe8d » Mon Aug 26, 2019 9:32 pm

For what it's worth:

I have not only a current Will, POA and Heath Care Proxy, but also a List of assets,where things are located etc and just added a Funeral Preplan. All accessible by my executor.
All the Best, | Joe

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Re: Death in family (not sure how to proceed)...

Post by GenawithanE » Tue Aug 27, 2019 12:01 am

As many have noted, she should get an attorney pronto. If she doesn't know of one who does estate work, she should call the local bar association who probably has a referral program that will set her up with initial appointments with folks.

She should check to see whether he had any life insurance policies, with his work and information they had in the house for starters. Decent chance that she is the beneficiary. A life insurance policy will get cash to her relatively quickly so she can manage other expenses needed for their joint assets until the executor can be appointed and his funds, assuming there are any, can be accessed. It takes longer, but you can ask the National Association of Insurance Commissioners to search if there were any policies. Send an email to help@naic.org.

As others have suggested, this brings home the importance of having things in writing so that if you go, others know what you have an what to do. Don't wait!

And, these days when everything is electronic, consider making sure your password manager has a feature that you can set someone up to have access to your passwords after you pass, so all that email with bills that you don't get in hard copy anymore doesn't lead to unpaid bills. You do have a password manager, don't you? We use LastPass, but there are several on the market and they are inexpensive and great for cyber security that is too necessary.

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Re: Death in family (not sure how to proceed)...

Post by fulltilt » Tue Aug 27, 2019 12:49 pm

I am sorry for your loss.

It sounds like you have a good handle on the high-level details of what needs to be done so I am going to suggest more street level, practical approach on how you might go about doing it.

The first pieces of information you need are the date of birth and SSN number of your brother-in-law. The second thing i would do would be to run a credit report to see if you can get a better financial picture. The third thing I would do is get access to their email account and any possible "junk" email accounts. Fourth, I would try to get access to their mobile phone. Fifth, he may have had old 401ks at previous employers. Maybe previous tax returns could help you locate them? Once you have all this information, then you can piece together a list of assets, liabilities, bills, etc. Don’t forget the vehicle titles. The spouse might not have full and complete information on the financial matters.

Current bills such as credit cards are obviously a priority, but don’t forget about taxes if he may have been paying taxes quarterly.

Copies of the death certificate are cheap so make sure you get more of them than you think you will need.

Once you have a list of “everything”, then it is just a matter of going through them all and taking the appropriate action.

Again, I am so sorry for your loss.

Best of Luck.

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Re: Death in family (not sure how to proceed)...

Post by galawdawg » Tue Aug 27, 2019 2:15 pm

fulltilt wrote:
Tue Aug 27, 2019 12:49 pm
I am sorry for your loss.

It sounds like you have a good handle on the high-level details of what needs to be done so I am going to suggest more street level, practical approach on how you might go about doing it.

The first pieces of information you need are the date of birth and SSN number of your brother-in-law. The second thing i would do would be to run a credit report to see if you can get a better financial picture. The third thing I would do is get access to their email account and any possible "junk" email accounts. Fourth, I would try to get access to their mobile phone. Fifth, he may have had old 401ks at previous employers. Maybe previous tax returns could help you locate them? Once you have all this information, then you can piece together a list of assets, liabilities, bills, etc. Don’t forget the vehicle titles. The spouse might not have full and complete information on the financial matters.

Current bills such as credit cards are obviously a priority, but don’t forget about taxes if he may have been paying taxes quarterly.

Copies of the death certificate are cheap so make sure you get more of them than you think you will need.

Once you have a list of “everything”, then it is just a matter of going through them all and taking the appropriate action.

Again, I am so sorry for your loss.

Best of Luck.
Respectfully, I'd be very cautious about recommending that someone access credit reports, email accounts or mobile phones of another unless expressly permitted by law or court order. Accessing these without lawful authority presents significant legal risk, including possible criminal liability. An attorney can best advise the executor or administrator of the estate how to proceed.

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Re: Death in family (not sure how to proceed)...

Post by fulltilt » Tue Aug 27, 2019 3:15 pm

galawdawg wrote:
Tue Aug 27, 2019 2:15 pm
fulltilt wrote:
Tue Aug 27, 2019 12:49 pm
I am sorry for your loss.

It sounds like you have a good handle on the high-level details of what needs to be done so I am going to suggest more street level, practical approach on how you might go about doing it.

The first pieces of information you need are the date of birth and SSN number of your brother-in-law. The second thing i would do would be to run a credit report to see if you can get a better financial picture. The third thing I would do is get access to their email account and any possible "junk" email accounts. Fourth, I would try to get access to their mobile phone. Fifth, he may have had old 401ks at previous employers. Maybe previous tax returns could help you locate them? Once you have all this information, then you can piece together a list of assets, liabilities, bills, etc. Don’t forget the vehicle titles. The spouse might not have full and complete information on the financial matters.

Current bills such as credit cards are obviously a priority, but don’t forget about taxes if he may have been paying taxes quarterly.

Copies of the death certificate are cheap so make sure you get more of them than you think you will need.

Once you have a list of “everything”, then it is just a matter of going through them all and taking the appropriate action.

Again, I am so sorry for your loss.

Best of Luck.
Respectfully, I'd be very cautious about recommending that someone access credit reports, email accounts or mobile phones of another unless expressly permitted by law or court order. Accessing these without lawful authority presents significant legal risk, including possible criminal liability. An attorney can best advise the executor or administrator of the estate how to proceed.
Thanks, you're certainly right that this is *not* the correct way to do this. It is just a way that one *could* do it if they were so inclined.

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Re: Death in family (not sure how to proceed)...

Post by aristotelian » Tue Aug 27, 2019 3:30 pm

galawdawg wrote:
Sun Aug 25, 2019 5:31 pm
Generally, property titled jointly between husband and wife pass outside of the estate (i.e., joint financial accounts, real property titled JTWROS, and such), life insurance proceeds go to the beneficiary outside of the estate and some other assets (such as an IRA), which has a designated beneficiary pass outside of the estate as well.

This is general guidance and not intended to be legal advice as IANYL. Again, your sister-in-law should, as soon as possible, contact a trusted Missouri attorney who handles such legal matters.
Any of his investment accounts that were either jointly held or POD to her as beneficiary should transfer over to her without probate. She will just need a death certificate and it should happen quickly.

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Kababayan
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Re: Death in family (not sure how to proceed)...

Post by Kababayan » Mon Sep 02, 2019 6:01 pm

Thank you all so very much for the advice. I can't tell you how much help it has been. Thank you again for all of your help.

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Re: Death in family (not sure how to proceed)...

Post by bsteiner » Mon Sep 02, 2019 6:17 pm

Gill wrote:
Sun Aug 25, 2019 5:56 pm
If the deceased owned the house in his name alone the house needs to be administered as part of his distributable estate. Don’t pay any bills on the house from personal funds. If there is no will an administrator must be appointed.
Wouldn't the house pass to the intestate takers by operation of law, and not be subject to administration unless it needs to be sold to pay debts, taxes or expenses?
GenawithanE wrote:
Tue Aug 27, 2019 12:01 am
As many have noted, she should get an attorney pronto. If she doesn't know of one who does estate work, she should call the local bar association who probably has a referral program that will set her up with initial appointments with folks.
...
That might not be the best place to ask for referrals.

The good thing is that St. Louis probably has more top trusts and estates lawyers per capita than any other city.

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Re: Death in family (not sure how to proceed)...

Post by Elam » Mon Sep 02, 2019 8:47 pm

delamer wrote:
Sun Aug 25, 2019 3:09 pm


Locate his will and determine who the executor of his estate is.

If it isn’t your SIL, then she needs to contact the executor and engage an attorney to look after her interest and her kids’.


Great advice.

If he had no will, there may be state laws that come into play.
Usually state laws give the wife everything [sometimes shared with children.]

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