Losing a loved one is an emotionally challenging experience, and navigating the legal complexities that follow can be overwhelming. In such difficult times, seeking the guidance of an attorney is crucial to ensure a clear path forward. In this article, we’ll explore the reasons to call an attorney after the death of a loved one, whether it’s a spouse, parent, or any other family member, and the next steps you should take.
Understanding the Next Steps
When a loved one passes away, their assets become a focal point for legal proceedings such as probate. This is one of the most important reasons to call an attorney after the death of a loved one.
Probate is a legal process where the deceased person’s estate is administered and distributed. The involvement of an attorney is particularly crucial in probate cases, ensuring that the deceased’s wishes are followed, debts are settled, and assets are distributed appropriately.
Understanding the various types of assets, such as joint accounts, beneficiary-designated assets, and assets held in a trust, is also crucial. An attorney can provide invaluable assistance in navigating the process associated with each trust asset.
- Joint Accounts with right of survivorship: Two or more individuals hold these accounts. Upon the death of one account holder, ownership usually transfers directly to the surviving holder(s). Such joint accounts typically are not subject to probate because they are not considered part of the deceased individual’s sole estate.
- Pay on Death Accounts: The holder(s) of the account has directed that on the holder(s) death, the account will to be paid to one or more individuals. These accounts will not be subject to probate.
- Beneficiary-Designated Assets: These types of assets include life insurance policies and retirement accounts such as IRAs and 401(k)s and have one or more named beneficiaries who are entitled to the asset upon the owner’s death. These assets bypass probate because they directly pass to the named beneficiary.
- Assets Held in a Trust: These assets refer to any asset that has been placed into a trust, either revocable or irrevocable. Generally, these assets do not go through probate, as the trust dictates their distribution.
Everything You Need to Know
If your loved one passed away without a will or trust, the legal implications can be significant, particularly in a state like California. In the absence of clear instructions, the distribution of assets may become complicated, potentially leading to disputes among family members.
During this challenging time, you may have numerous questions regarding the legal aspects of your loved one’s passing. An attorney can provide clarity on matters such as inheritance, tax implications, the proper handling of debts, and probate fees in California. This is especially important if your loved one died without an estate plan in place.
Speaking with a legal professional can alleviate stress and ensure that you are on the right path. If you are struggling with probate issues after a loved one has passed, call an attorney with knowledge of California probate laws today.