Husband Died and Spouse lack of knowledge.

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arm25
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Husband Died and Spouse lack of knowledge.

Post by arm25 »

Hello,
One of my friends asked for help. Her Husband Died due to COVID-19 in New York. She has no knowledge of her husband's assets. She is asking what she should do, where to start, and how to get level ownership. She and her 10-year-old child are only living relatives.

She has a child who is 10 years old.
Her husband had a life insurance policy.
The husband owned a small business that she don't know how to run it and couple of people are claiming to be partner in that business.
House is on her husband's name and he had a mortgage. Bank refused to give her mortgage information.
She has no knowledge if the husband had any IRA Plan.
Can she get any social security since she has a young child?

Does she need to go to court and obtain any probate order?

How she should proceed and what steps to follow.

Thanks
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FiveK
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Re: Husband Died and Spouse lack of knowledge.

Post by FiveK »

Appears she could use a good estate lawyer. Starting that search ASAP would be good.

In parallel, can she find
- a will?
- a safe deposit box, filing cabinet, etc., with documents?
- all tax returns he and they filed?

Sorry to hear of the situation. Hope things work out OK for them.
Mr. Rumples
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Re: Husband Died and Spouse lack of knowledge.

Post by Mr. Rumples »

Like with investing, she is going to have to tune out the noise of friends and family who know little of his life, business and the law telling her this and that. I have to agree that she needs a good attorney to navigate what appears to be a mess especially with people saying they are "partners" in the business. Its a situation which is ripe for being scammed if she is not very careful. She is going to have enough on her hands with a child and putting her life back together without navigating this alone.

Let the attorney sell the business, handle probate, the hospital bills (and those have to be looked at to avoid fraud), get her and her child their SS benefits and so forth. Its an exhausting process even when everything is in order. For her own peace of mind, she can just say to people they need to contact her attorney. The honest ones will know they have to wait now for the process to play out, those banging down her door are going to be difficult to dismiss and ignore without an attorney backing her up.
Last edited by Mr. Rumples on Wed May 13, 2020 11:49 pm, edited 1 time in total.
curmudgeon
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Re: Husband Died and Spouse lack of knowledge.

Post by curmudgeon »

I would suggest starting with the Nolo Press "Executor's Guide". A paper copy might be better than the ebook. It won't answer all the questions, but it will give some starting points for many of the issues she is facing.
phxjcc
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Re: Husband Died and Spouse lack of knowledge.

Post by phxjcc »

A fundamental lack of information makes advice at this point next to impossible.

Fill us in....

1. How long were they married?
2. Is the 10 year old his?
3. Previous marriages and children?
4. Siblings, parents, grandchildren?

Also, some magnitude of the suspected estate value might come into play here.
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arm25
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Re: Husband Died and Spouse lack of knowledge.

Post by arm25 »

Married for 15 years.
A 10-year-old child is his.
no previous marriage or child.
Parent Died, No Sibling in USA
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celia
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Re: Husband Died and Spouse lack of knowledge.

Post by celia »

I wouldn’t be surprised if the husband was trying to hide something from her. I hope the husband’s name (especially last name) was a little unusual to help make the asset search easier or to distinguish him from other people with the same name.

First, she should hold onto all mail except mass mailed junk. If DH had a post office box that she knows about, she could have the mail from it forwarded to her.

Then you can check online at her county’s website to find the latest deed for their house. It will likely have a mortgage holder listed and co-owner’s, if any. Then you can search countywide for his name to see if he (or a similar-named person) owns more property. You can also search neighboring counties.

As far as the business, it should be registered as a business with the state’s Secretary of State. There may be original incorporation papers showing who the partners are. And the business may own real estate (or not).

Hopefully she is on a checking account with him. If so, she may be able to have them print out the account history for a year or two.

I think the attorney will usually start by asking about his assets. Even if she doesn’t have enough details, hopefully she can give the attorney some good clues to get started. And maybe the attorney has a way to ask local estate planning attorneys if they created an estate plan for him. (He would have had to agree to let this knowledge be known while he was living unless they created wills/trusts together. If so, that attorney may know where his assets were at that time.)
aristotelian
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Re: Husband Died and Spouse lack of knowledge.

Post by aristotelian »

Has she obtained the death certificate? That will trigger any TOD assets.

In addition to other suggestions, a tax return would show a lot of his assets.
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Sandtrap
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Re: Husband Died and Spouse lack of knowledge.

Post by Sandtrap »

1
Do nothing until meeting with a lawyer.
2
Do not be influenced by other family, friends, business workers, business partners, etc.
3
Seek legal counsel (lawyer) as soon as possible.

#1-3 based on the information you gave.
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Re: Husband Died and Spouse lack of knowledge.

Post by Jack FFR1846 »

If she receives requests from friends/relatives who assume she's getting a windfall, she should respond: "He left me nothing. Can you please give me a few thousand dollars to hold me over?". This is the best leech repellent around. Use it early and often. Even if there's a million dollar insurance payout, she's to tell everyone she is destitute.
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galawdawg
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Re: Husband Died and Spouse lack of knowledge.

Post by galawdawg »

Here's a pretty good checklist of things for a surviving spouse to do when their loved one passes. It is in PDF format so the OP can forward it to his friend or print it out for her.

https://www.balancepro.net/education/pd ... spouse.pdf
senex
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Re: Husband Died and Spouse lack of knowledge.

Post by senex »

No knowledge of assets is an interesting wrinkle. Does that mean no knowledge of will, either?

I would start by requesting a bunch of death certs and finding her marriage license. There is a bit of lag getting those, and there's no need to pay an attorney to do a routine govt request, and big companies won't talk to her without those.

From there, it depends on her emotional state. The highest value actions are probably rifling through every cabinet or box she can find in home or office, basement or closets, etc. Try to find will, tax returns, recent account statements, and business agreements. Figure out the business's accountant and try to get all info from him (not sure if he'll provide or not). Whether she can do that, or has a trusted friend/relative to help, or whether she needs to pay an attorney to do it, depends on her emotional & financial state.
bsteiner
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Re: Husband Died and Spouse lack of knowledge.

Post by bsteiner »

The trusts and estates section of the New York State Bar Association has an active electronic discussion group. While it's a long shot, it's worth having a memnber post a query asking if anyone on the list has the Will.

His checkbook will be a good source of information. It will show payments to the accountant (which will identify the accountant) and payments to the life insurance company (which will identify the insurance company). If he had a safe deposit box there will be checks to the bank for the rent. (There could be electronic withdrawals rather than actual checks.)

Their tax returns will be a good source of information. If she can't find them, she could ask their accountant, or ask the IRS for copies of them.

The accountant will also be a good source of information. He/she will have copies of the tax returns for the business (unless it's a sole proprietorship or single member LLC in which case it probably wouldn't have filed its own tax returns). The tax returns for the business will provide useful information.

Any place where he had an account or insurance policy will send periodic statements or bills.

If no one knows anything about a Will, and a search doesn't turn up a Will, then she can file a petition for administration. The petition requires her to say that: "A diligent search and inquiry, including a search of any safe deposit box, has been made for a will of the decedent and none has been found. Petitioner has been unable to obtain any information concerning any will of the decedent and therefore alleges, upon information and belief ,that the decedent died without leaving any last will."

She should, of course, work with competent trusts and estates counsel.
carolinaman
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Re: Husband Died and Spouse lack of knowledge.

Post by carolinaman »

I am very sorry to hear of this woman's loss. That is difficult enough without having to deal with the his estate.

This is not a DIY effort by her. She needs expert counsel to guide her efforts. Bsteiner provided some great advice and I think this would best be lead by an estate attorney. They know how to navigate the myriad of issues and complexities of handling her husband's estate.

Time may be of the essence to resolve issues with her husband's business. Most likely she would want to sell the business but its value may decline substantially without someone operating the business.
tibbitts
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Re: Husband Died and Spouse lack of knowledge.

Post by tibbitts »

Wow this is nearly the worst possible case. It should remind all of us to take steps to avoid something similar happening. It seems unlikely that this situation will end well.
dukeblue219
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Re: Husband Died and Spouse lack of knowledge.

Post by dukeblue219 »

It sounds like this couple is rather young, potentially 30s to 40s. Wouldnt surprise me at all that's there's no will and no real plan for "the end." There probably isn't a checkbook and likely most communications are email or phone. Who knows if there are paper copies of anything around. This is actually a concern my wife and I have but have never really solved, despite a secret list of accounts and passwords (we're in 30s with kids). We have so much stuff stored electronically that we can't just assume a search of the house will turn up important details.

Getting into the email is absolutely critical to resolve some of these questions and find out who's been sending statements and business inquiries.
go_mets
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Re: Husband Died and Spouse lack of knowledge.

Post by go_mets »

Sounds like this couple may be "international" as in the women left her family overseas to marry to her husband in the USA.
Happens quite often.

Having gone through the process with death of my father, it is doubly hard without knowledge of true finances and possibility of language barrier.

Find a reliable attorney.

.
mptfan
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Re: Husband Died and Spouse lack of knowledge.

Post by mptfan »

celia wrote: Thu May 14, 2020 12:33 am I wouldn’t be surprised if the husband was trying to hide something from her.
Huh? Why do you say that?
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dodecahedron
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Re: Husband Died and Spouse lack of knowledge.

Post by dodecahedron »

bsteiner wrote: Thu May 14, 2020 8:38 am The trusts and estates section of the New York State Bar Association has an active electronic discussion group. While it's a long shot, it's worth having a memnber post a query asking if anyone on the list has the Will.
A couple months ago, I was unpleasantly surprised to discover that my own attorney´s assistant did not realize they already had the original copy of my will in their files.

I had called to make an appointment to discuss updating my documents and she was surprised to hear that I was an existing client. She could find no record on file under my name.

I was somewhat annoyed that she could not locate my file since I had spent quite a considerable sum with the firm in handling the estate of my late husband seven years ago and said so. She then asked what HIS name was. (Different last names.) It turned out that my electronic records were filed under his last name, not mine!

I was relieved but further annoyed by that. When we originally approached this firm to have both our wills prepared 12 years ago, *I* was the one to initiate the appointment and *I* was the one to meet with the attorney alone at first to describe the broad outlines of what we were looking to do and to get a sense of the information we should collect so she could prepare wills for us. He had literally ONE in person contact with that firm (the day he went in to sign the docs) whereas I had dozens of contacts (at least four in person visits, lots of emails to the paralegal, phone calls.)

So why were the records for me stored just under his name and not mine? I don´t know. The firm did move offices.
Last edited by dodecahedron on Thu May 14, 2020 10:20 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Kenkat
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Re: Husband Died and Spouse lack of knowledge.

Post by Kenkat »

She has a child who is 10 years old.

Her husband had a life insurance policy. Get death certificate and file a claim with the insurance company

The husband owned a small business that she don't know how to run it and couple of people are claiming to be partner in that business. This will be tricky. For the time being I would assume she is now a 1/3 partner in the business and focus on keeping things running - but she probably should engage an estate attorney to help with sorting this out long term

House is on her husband's name and he had a mortgage. Bank refused to give her mortgage information.Take copy of death certificate to bank. She may need to have gone through probate and get a probate order as well

She has no knowledge if the husband had any IRA Plan. Search house and work for files; look at tax returns or tax documents to try to find any assets

Can she get any social security since she has a young child? If husband had sufficient credits through social security, then yes. Contact social security to find out

Does she need to go to court and obtain any probate order? Yes, and she should probably get some legal help with this
Last edited by Kenkat on Thu May 14, 2020 10:41 am, edited 1 time in total.
valleyrock
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Re: Husband Died and Spouse lack of knowledge.

Post by valleyrock »

Great idea to hire an attorney, but make sure they are experienced estate attorneys. There are different types, from big outfits whose partners charge a whole lot by the hour and their paralegals can charge a lot as well; to sole proprietor attorneys; to ones in between. Word of mouth is probably the best way to find a local, competent estate attorney. Go on nextdoor.com, for example and ask the neighbors. You'll hear back fast, I'm sure. The stuff usually isn't rocket science. A good attorney should be able to readily lay out procedures and the range of costs for their performing the various steps along the way. Costs could vary from several thousand to several tens of thousands of dollars, depending on the size of the estate and what needs doing and what one pays the attorney to do.

I'd look at hiring a CPA to do handle estate taxes. CPA hourly rates are way less than attorney hourly rates, usually. A lot of attorneys will want to do the taxes, also, and that might be OK, but keep in mind they bill by the hour. Just make sure the different professionals know the others who are involved. It can't hurt to have some interchange between licensed professionals who can work to keep their clients' best interest in mind, while making a reasonable fee for their time, of course.

I know from helping handle these matters in two states that the rules vary from state to state. In one state, the property (two homes) immediately became the property of the heirs, upon filing the relevant documents (letters testamentary or equivalent); but in another, everything was on hold until all taxes were paid to the state and waivers were created; then there had to be medallions and all sorts of paperwork, on various accounts. All the more reason to hire a competent, experienced, local estate attorney. This is no time to pay an inexperienced attorney to learn what to do, unless they are very upfront about being in learning mode and there's a willingness to accept that.
pshonore
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Re: Husband Died and Spouse lack of knowledge.

Post by pshonore »

Has she signed any tax returns? Looking at the latest filed return and supporting documentation would give her some info on where to start looking for more info.
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Re: Husband Died and Spouse lack of knowledge.

Post by bsteiner »

valleyrock wrote: Thu May 14, 2020 10:17 am Great idea to hire an attorney, but make sure they are experienced estate attorneys. There are different types, from big outfits whose partners charge a whole lot by the hour and their paralegals can charge a lot as well; to sole proprietor attorneys; to ones in between. Word of mouth is probably the best way to find a local, competent estate attorney. .... The stuff usually isn't rocket science. A good attorney should be able to readily lay out procedures and the range of costs for their performing the various steps along the way. Costs could vary from several thousand to several tens of thousands of dollars, depending on the size of the estate and what needs doing and what one pays the attorney to do.

I'd look at hiring a CPA to do handle estate taxes. CPA hourly rates are way less than attorney hourly rates, usually. A lot of attorneys will want to do the taxes, also, and that might be OK, but keep in mind they bill by the hour. Just make sure the different professionals know the others who are involved. It can't hurt to have some interchange between licensed professionals who can work to keep their clients' best interest in mind, while making a reasonable fee for their time, of course.
...
We don't yet have enough information to estimate how much work will be involved.

Estate tax returns should be done by law firms. Any law firm with a good trusts and estates practice, especially in New York, does them regularly.
NotWhoYouThink
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Re: Husband Died and Spouse lack of knowledge.

Post by NotWhoYouThink »

pshonore wrote: Thu May 14, 2020 10:26 am Has she signed any tax returns? Looking at the latest filed return and supporting documentation would give her some info on where to start looking for more info.
Interesting question. If e-filed she probably would not have needed to.
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Re: Husband Died and Spouse lack of knowledge.

Post by barnaclebob »

mptfan wrote: Thu May 14, 2020 9:46 am
celia wrote: Thu May 14, 2020 12:33 am I wouldn’t be surprised if the husband was trying to hide something from her.
Huh? Why do you say that?
Too many people have over active imaginations when they read things on the internet. A disproportionate amount of our time is spent hearing about or seeing outlier situations so many peoples brains think these uncommon events are more common than they really are.
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celia
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Re: Husband Died and Spouse lack of knowledge.

Post by celia »

mptfan wrote: Thu May 14, 2020 9:46 am
celia wrote: Thu May 14, 2020 12:33 am I wouldn’t be surprised if the husband was trying to hide something from her.
Huh? Why do you say that?
She doesn’t know of their assets? She doesn’t even know if her husband’s business had partners? He never talked about his partners or employees or assets with her or showed her their tax return?

I have been an executor/trustee several times. I have seen things that could have been easily added to a list of Assets and Liabilities that weren’t. Sometimes it was an oversight and other times they were intentionally hidden.
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Re: Husband Died and Spouse lack of knowledge.

Post by delamer »

bsteiner wrote: Thu May 14, 2020 8:38 am The trusts and estates section of the New York State Bar Association has an active electronic discussion group. While it's a long shot, it's worth having a memnber post a query asking if anyone on the list has the Will.

His checkbook will be a good source of information. It will show payments to the accountant (which will identify the accountant) and payments to the life insurance company (which will identify the insurance company). If he had a safe deposit box there will be checks to the bank for the rent. (There could be electronic withdrawals rather than actual checks.)

Their tax returns will be a good source of information. If she can't find them, she could ask their accountant, or ask the IRS for copies of them.

The accountant will also be a good source of information. He/she will have copies of the tax returns for the business (unless it's a sole proprietorship or single member LLC in which case it probably wouldn't have filed its own tax returns). The tax returns for the business will provide useful information.

Any place where he had an account or insurance policy will send periodic statements or bills.

If no one knows anything about a Will, and a search doesn't turn up a Will, then she can file a petition for administration. The petition requires her to say that: "A diligent search and inquiry, including a search of any safe deposit box, has been made for a will of the decedent and none has been found. Petitioner has been unable to obtain any information concerning any will of the decedent and therefore alleges, upon information and belief ,that the decedent died without leaving any last will."

She should, of course, work with competent trusts and estates counsel.
arm25 — bsteiner is a highly-respected trusts and estates attorney who posts here often.

Please follow his advice.

I’m sorry about your friend’s loss and difficulties.
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celia
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Re: Husband Died and Spouse lack of knowledge.

Post by celia »

dodecahedron wrote: Thu May 14, 2020 9:51 am When we originally approached this firm to have both our wills prepared 12 years ago, *I* was the one to initiate the appointment and *I* was the one to meet with the attorney alone at first to describe the broad outlines of what we were looking to do and to get a sense of the information we should collect so she could prepare wills for us. He had literally ONE in person contact with that firm (the day he went in to sign the docs) whereas I had dozens of contacts (at least four in person visits, lots of emails to the paralegal, phone calls.)

So why were the records for me stored just under his name and not mine? I don´t know. The firm did move offices.
Don’t take this personally as this is just a filing issue that you would have organized differently. As a genealogist, we have to decide how we will file/sort our records when people change their names or a family unit has different last names. Keep in mind ONE person can change their name several times (as commonly seen in a woman who marries more than once). So you have to decide if your records for that person get filed in various places, filed by family unit, or by individual. The common response to this question is to do whatever makes the most sense for you as this is your project. My relatives and ancestors aren’t going to care how I sort or file them. But I just need to know how to find them in my paper trove and digital files.
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Re: Husband Died and Spouse lack of knowledge.

Post by mptfan »

celia wrote: Thu May 14, 2020 1:28 pm
mptfan wrote: Thu May 14, 2020 9:46 am
celia wrote: Thu May 14, 2020 12:33 am I wouldn’t be surprised if the husband was trying to hide something from her.
Huh? Why do you say that?
She doesn’t know of their assets? She doesn’t even know if her husband’s business had partners? He never talked about his partners or employees or assets with her or showed her their tax return?
Many spouses rely on the other spouse to handle the taxes and finances and have no interest or inclination to keep track themselves. That is not evidence of hiding things.
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Re: Husband Died and Spouse lack of knowledge.

Post by CAsage »

A relation died recently, unexpected by him but not otherwise (alcoholic, diabetic, overweight...), and left his estate in a complete shambles. I resolved not to inflict a mess like that on anyone! So I now include a list of all my assets, including Entity (brokerage, bank, etc), account numbers, inheritance status (trust, beneficiary, TOD, probate item) and put a copy in with my tax return. I also say helpful things like "no life insurance" so no one will waste time scrambling. The real issue with this situation is ... the Spouse seems completely uninvolved with any aspect of her husband's finances. Quite odd.
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retiringwhen
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Re: Husband Died and Spouse lack of knowledge.

Post by retiringwhen »

CAsage wrote: Thu May 14, 2020 1:56 pm A relation died recently, unexpected by him but not otherwise (alcoholic, diabetic, overweight...), and left his estate in a complete shambles. I resolved not to inflict a mess like that on anyone! So I now include a list of all my assets, including Entity (brokerage, bank, etc), account numbers, inheritance status (trust, beneficiary, TOD, probate item) and put a copy in with my tax return. I also say helpful things like "no life insurance" so no one will waste time scrambling. The real issue with this situation is ... the Spouse seems completely uninvolved with any aspect of her husband's finances. Quite odd.
8 years ago my wife would have come close to be as far out of the loop. A family death caused her to see the need to become more involved. These days, I am confident if I kick the bucket, she could take it up with a reasonable effort even though I still do 90% of the work today. She is willing and able to be involved and ensures she understands the big picture. Earlier it just didn't matter to her. Lots of situations in life (and stages of life).
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Re: Husband Died and Spouse lack of knowledge.

Post by GibsonL6s »

Sorry for your friends loss.

Another source of information would computers and cell phones either at home or the business. Email accounts, favorites will all hold clues if they can be accessed. It is also time to start showing up to the business and seeing what goes on. Figure out who the landlord is and ask for a copy of the lease and see how the rent was paid (check, online etc.)

Unfortunate that a grieving person has to be turned into Columbo in this situation.
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Re: Husband Died and Spouse lack of knowledge.

Post by LadyGeek »

I removed an off-topic post and reply. As a reminder, see: General Etiquette
At all times we must conduct ourselves in a respectful manner to other posters.
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Re: Husband Died and Spouse lack of knowledge.

Post by Stinky »

Tell your friend to do her best to get into her husband’s email account(s). Look at all of the messages from the last few months, and (especially) monitor all new emails coming in.

There will likely be many “bread crumbs” in the emails that she can use to piece together parts of her husband’s financial life.

So sorry that your friend finds herself in this situation.
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dodecahedron
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Re: Husband Died and Spouse lack of knowledge.

Post by dodecahedron »

celia wrote: Thu May 14, 2020 1:51 pm
dodecahedron wrote: Thu May 14, 2020 9:51 am When we originally approached this firm to have both our wills prepared 12 years ago, *I* was the one to initiate the appointment and *I* was the one to meet with the attorney alone at first to describe the broad outlines of what we were looking to do and to get a sense of the information we should collect so she could prepare wills for us. He had literally ONE in person contact with that firm (the day he went in to sign the docs) whereas I had dozens of contacts (at least four in person visits, lots of emails to the paralegal, phone calls.)

So why were the records for me stored just under his name and not mine? I don´t know. The firm did move offices.
Don’t take this personally as this is just a filing issue that you would have organized differently. As a genealogist, we have to decide how we will file/sort our records when people change their names or a family unit has different last names. Keep in mind ONE person can change their name several times (as commonly seen in a woman who marries more than once). So you have to decide if your records for that person get filed in various places, filed by family unit, or by individual. The common response to this question is to do whatever makes the most sense for you as this is your project. My relatives and ancestors aren’t going to care how I sort or file them. But I just need to know how to find them in my paper trove and digital files.
She is not a genealogist, she is an attorney. Most genealogists are amateurs. Attorneys are professionals. She has a fiduciary duty to each of her clients individually. She needs to keep track of individuals as well as family units. Certain life changes (e.g., divorce or reaching the age of majority or domestic abuse) may create conflicts of interest among the individuals in a previous family unit meaning the files may need to be separated and possibly one of the individuals needs to be advised to seek another attorney. It is not hard to tag an electronic file to allow search with multiple names. Moreover, after the number of hours she billed me for handling my late husband´s estate, the attorney knows very well that *I* am her only living client. My name has been the same since birth for my entire life.

She is a founding partner in a firm with about a dozen attorneys, and probably about 40 employees total including paralegals and other support staff so a well-organized electronic recordkeeping system is essential. When a longstanding client (who has spent thousands of dollars with them in the past) calls and leaves a voicemail for the attorney´s designated assistant asking for a return call back to set up an appointment to ¨update estate documents,¨ with a name and phone number that are identical to the ones I have had ever since beginning of our relationship, I think their electronic filing system should have let the assistant know that I deserved some priority in getting my call returned. (This was back in late February. I called around midday on a Thursday and was surprised not to hear back from the assistant until the following Monday.)

If I were just a random bereaved family member trying to track down a will, and not 100% sure that the original was supposed to be in my attorney´s safe, I would not have known enough to insist that Yes, I am a returning client, thus prompting her to inquire about other names that might be on the record.

So, yes, I am pretty annnoyed by this. I chose this firm because it was a moderate-sized practice that seemed well run by well organized women attorneys with a good reputation. Two of three founding partners (including my attorney) were women about 15 years younger than me and they had a reasonable pipeline of junior partners and associates. I expected it would be decades before we would actually need to use the documents we had drafted and placed in their safe 12 years ago and I wanted to make sure the firm would be able to assist my daughters well down the road. They have apparently flourished and grown (moved into bigger offices) but they need a better electronic record keeping system.

Edited to add: one further thought I just had. My name is often misspelled so it is possible that it is tagged under both my husband´s name and my name but she may have typed my name in wrong after listening to my voicemail. Or the tag in their files may have it misspelled. Or both. A good voicemail system would also have linked my record to the phone number I was calling from, which is in their files.

This is getting off-topic, but the bottom line point is that legal firms´ staff may not easily be able to discern whether they have a will in their files.
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LilyFleur
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Re: Husband Died and Spouse lack of knowledge.

Post by LilyFleur »

CAsage wrote: Thu May 14, 2020 1:56 pm A relation died recently, unexpected by him but not otherwise (alcoholic, diabetic, overweight...), and left his estate in a complete shambles. I resolved not to inflict a mess like that on anyone! So I now include a list of all my assets, including Entity (brokerage, bank, etc), account numbers, inheritance status (trust, beneficiary, TOD, probate item) and put a copy in with my tax return. I also say helpful things like "no life insurance" so no one will waste time scrambling. The real issue with this situation is ... the Spouse seems completely uninvolved with any aspect of her husband's finances. Quite odd.
Exactly. Presumably she signed their joint tax returns. Although, I have heard of instances where the husband does the taxes and then says, "Oh, I have to get this to the post office in the next ten minutes. Just sign here." Then she signs but doesn't have a chance to look at the return.
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LilyFleur
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Re: Husband Died and Spouse lack of knowledge.

Post by LilyFleur »

dodecahedron wrote: Fri May 15, 2020 12:59 pm
celia wrote: Thu May 14, 2020 1:51 pm
dodecahedron wrote: Thu May 14, 2020 9:51 am When we originally approached this firm to have both our wills prepared 12 years ago, *I* was the one to initiate the appointment and *I* was the one to meet with the attorney alone at first to describe the broad outlines of what we were looking to do and to get a sense of the information we should collect so she could prepare wills for us. He had literally ONE in person contact with that firm (the day he went in to sign the docs) whereas I had dozens of contacts (at least four in person visits, lots of emails to the paralegal, phone calls.)

So why were the records for me stored just under his name and not mine? I don´t know. The firm did move offices.
Don’t take this personally as this is just a filing issue that you would have organized differently. As a genealogist, we have to decide how we will file/sort our records when people change their names or a family unit has different last names. Keep in mind ONE person can change their name several times (as commonly seen in a woman who marries more than once). So you have to decide if your records for that person get filed in various places, filed by family unit, or by individual. The common response to this question is to do whatever makes the most sense for you as this is your project. My relatives and ancestors aren’t going to care how I sort or file them. But I just need to know how to find them in my paper trove and digital files.
She is not a genealogist, she is an attorney. Most genealogists are amateurs. Attorneys are professionals. She has a fiduciary duty to each of her clients individually. She needs to keep track of individuals as well as family units. Certain life changes (e.g., divorce or reaching the age of majority or domestic abuse) may create conflicts of interest among the individuals in a previous family unit meaning the files may need to be separated and possibly one of the individuals needs to be advised to seek another attorney. It is not hard to tag an electronic file to allow search with multiple names. Moreover, after the number of hours she billed me for handling my late husband´s estate, the attorney knows very well that *I* am her only living client. My name has been the same since birth for my entire life.

She is a founding partner in a firm with about a dozen attorneys, and probably about 40 employees total including paralegals and other support staff so a well-organized electronic recordkeeping system is essential. When a longstanding client (who has spent thousands of dollars with them in the past) calls and leaves a voicemail for the attorney´s designated assistant asking for a return call back to set up an appointment to ¨update estate documents,¨ with a name and phone number that are identical to the ones I have had ever since beginning of our relationship, I think their electronic filing system should have let the assistant know that I deserved some priority in getting my call returned. (This was back in late February. I called around midday on a Thursday and was surprised not to hear back from the assistant until the following Monday.)

If I were just a random bereaved family member trying to track down a will, and not 100% sure that the original was supposed to be in my attorney´s safe, I would not have known enough to insist that Yes, I am a returning client, thus prompting her to inquire about other names that might be on the record.

So, yes, I am pretty annnoyed by this. I chose this firm because it was a moderate-sized practice that seemed well run by well organized women attorneys with a good reputation. Two of three founding partners (including my attorney) were women about 15 years younger than me and they had a reasonable pipeline of junior partners and associates. I expected it would be decades before we would actually need to use the documents we had drafted and placed in their safe 12 years ago and I wanted to make sure the firm would be able to assist my daughters well down the road. They have apparently flourished and grown (moved into bigger offices) but they need a better electronic record keeping system.

Edited to add: one further thought I just had. My name is often misspelled so it is possible that it is tagged under both my husband´s name and my name but she may have typed my name in wrong after listening to my voicemail. Or the tag in their files may have it misspelled. Or both. A good voicemail system would also have linked my record to the phone number I was calling from, which is in their files.

This is getting off-topic, but the bottom line point is that legal firms´ staff may not easily be able to discern whether they have a will in their files.
Office staff (that can work competently within the existing computer system) is quite relevant to an experience, both with attorneys and doctors. I have changed doctors because I want to talk to a reasonably competent person when I need to make an appointment, not leave a voice mail which is then returned when I am unable to talk.

The misspelling thing has happened to me in a number of non-attorney settings, especially for emails that I haven't received. The email address has to be exactly right, and most customer-service representatives won't mind double-checking if you ask them to.
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Misenplace
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Re: Husband Died and Spouse lack of knowledge.

Post by Misenplace »

I removed an off-topic post regarding gender discrimination, and the replies that threatened to derail the thread. Please stay on-topic, and constructive. As a reminder, see: General Etiquette
At all times we must conduct ourselves in a respectful manner to other posters.
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