Losing a parent is difficult at any age. Even when a parent has lived a long and full life, saying goodbye is rarely easy. Not only do the adult children have to deal with the loss, they also have to deal with the legal aspects of a death, which can be daunting and confusing, especially during an already difficult time.
The AARP has put together an extensive list of steps that loved ones should take after a death, with the suggestion that the tasks are shared so that one person isn't responsible for everything. The most important tasks include:
In the hours after the passing:
- Contact the local hospital about organ donation, if necessary.
- Contact immediate family members to let them know.
- Follow instructions for body bequeathal, if any.
- Choose a funeral home where the body can be taken after the morgue.
In the days after the passing:
- Meet with key family members to discuss funeral plans.
- Meet with the funeral director to solidify funeral plans.
- Prepare the obituary that will appear in the newspaper and online.
- Keep track of those who sent flowers, cards and well-wishes so that thank-yous can be sent.
After the funeral:
- Send thank-you notes, dividing the duty up appropriately.
- Meet with a probate attorney, who can save you time and money as you tie up the final legal matters.
- Cancel and close accounts and memberships that you are aware of.
What happens next:
If there is a will in place, then your probate lawyer will have it admitted to probate court. If there is no will or the will does not name an executor, then the probate judge will name an administrator.
The goal of probate is to transfer your loved one's assets and tie-up all financial and legal affairs. Probate can be long and expensive or short and inexpensive, depending on the size of the estate involved, how much planning was done and whether there are any complicating issues such as a will contest.
In some cases, probate may not be necessary because of careful estate planning.
Keeping reading to learn more about the legal probate process in the state of Texas, including the differences between dependent administration, independent administration, the affidavit of heirship and the small estate affidavit.