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Legal Information/Probating a Will
If you do not have an attorney, now is a good time to find one. The best methods of finding an attorney are through friends and relatives or by calling your local bar association.
If your loved one had a will, it will need to be probated. Probate is the legal procedure for the orderly distribution of estates. In most cases, probating a will is a simple process. Only in the instances where the will is being contested or the deceased had numerous holdings will the action be more complex. There is usually a specific time within which a will must be probated, so it is important to check carefully.
If there is no will, the estate will be disposed of according to the state laws governing descent and distribution.
Preparation and or review of your own will is also an important consideration at this time. It is the best way to assure that your estate is handled according to your desires.
Life Insurance Information
When filing a claim form, you should have available the following information:
Financial and Credit Obligations
You should contact any financial institution where the deceased had a loan, and inform them of the death. They will be able to inform you if the loan was covered by credit life, and what needs to be done to file the appropriate claim. A certified copy of the death certificate is often required to file a claim.
You will also want to contact credit card companies to notify them of the death. If the card is jointly held, find out what documentation is required to change cards into the survivor's name. Ask the credit bureau to assist you in transferring your loved one's credit into your name. They may be able to assist you in determining any outstanding obligations of the deceased.
Make a prompt request for the release from each bank in which the deceased and you held a joint account. This is necessary before you can withdraw funds from that account. A bank will usually stop payment on all checks as soon as a death notice is published. The bank must also have the account cleared by the state tax authorities.
Living Will Information
On June 25, 1990, the Supreme Court ruled in the Nancy Cruzan case that Americans do have the constitutional "right to die," and indicated that a Living Will or Durable Power of Attorney may be the best way to protect that right. Issues concerning measures to sustain life and the quality of life are very personal, and it is recommended that you discuss these issues with your family.
Today most states have Living Will statutes, specifying documents, which anyone can copy, and sign according to state law.
Abbeville County Probate Office
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