Marin Humane Society

When a Loved One Passes Away

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Answers to Your 12 Most Pressing Questions Be Prepared When You Lose a Loved One 1 ] How do I determine if there is a prepaid funeral contract? Look through your loved one's safe-deposit box or filing cabinet to see if there was a prepaid funeral contract. The contract may be kept with or near a will or estate planning files. You may also wish to contact the local funeral directors to determine if a contract exists. If they don't have that information, contact your loved one's attorney, care center or hospital. 2 ] Can I gain access to a safe-deposit box? Because banks are subject to state and federal regulations, procedures can vary greatly from bank to bank and state to state. You should contact your loved one's bank directly to determine its policies for access. Banks, however, will often allow retrieval of important documents from a safe-deposit box under any of these circumstances such as these: • If another person is named as a joint holder of the box, that person can retrieve the contents of the box immediately. • The executor, once officially appointed by the court, may have access to the box. This process could take weeks, however. • A bank will recognize an order from a court that authorizes access to the box. 3 ] Should I contact an attorney? Every estate is unique. Consult with an estate planning attorney for advice on your specific situation. 4 ] How are assets distributed if my loved one does not have a will or I cannot find the will? When a person dies without a valid will, or if you cannot find the will, his or her property passes to heirs according to state law by what is called "intestate succession." All states have laws (or statutes) of this kind. For most states, however, the share for the surviving spouse is determined first, if he or she was married at the time of death. After allotting for the surviving spouse's share of the estate, intestate statutes also have provisions for how property should be divided if there is more than one descendent (children and/or grandchildren) that is entitled to inherit from the estate. Check your state's laws for further specifications and accurate statutes for your area. There might not be a more difficult time in your life than when a loved one passes away. You'll hardly be in the spirit to tackle the details of his or her estate. Yet, questions will arise regarding the distribu- tion of your loved one's assets. Here are answers to 12 important questions that can help bring you peace of mind during this stressful time.

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