My relative has passed away and left me in charge of their estate, What do I do Now?
Things to consider now that you are handling an estate
By Nancy A. Nicklow
Losing a love one can be very emotional time in one’s life, at Huff Insurance we are sorry for your recent loss. I know, I have lost both of my parents and handled my mom’s estate. At some points I was not sure what to do next or where to even turn. The first thing that I would recommend is that you hire an attorney to help you through the process. Their information can be very valuable and they will help you to make sure that deadlines for reports and taxes are not missed.
Being the personal representative for an estate is not an easy task. Once you are named the personal representative, Maryland law states that you are "...under general duty to settle and distribute the estate of the decedent in accordance with the terms of the will and the estates of decedents law as expeditiously and with little sacrifice of value as is reasonable under the circumstances." You will need to take possession of and distribute assets, prepare and file and inventory and information reports, prepare and filing an accounting, pay debts, taxes and costs of administration and fulfill all other responsibilities. Most times, a bond will need to be filed with the county register of wills office. The bond is in place in case the taxes are not paid that are due , the state can make a claim against the bonding company for the amount due. The bonding company would then proceed with legal action against the personal representative.
This is not the time that anyone wants to think about insurance. However, you need to do it know before there is a claim and you find out there is no coverage. Other family members may not be happy if the family home burns to the grown and there is no home insurance coverage. Or discover issues with the auto insurance policy because a family member drove the deceased car and had a serious accident the estate is now being sued, It is your obligation to make sure that all properties, vehicles, assets are properly covered and that there is the most appropriate coverage in place.
Your loved one may have a residence that they owned and occupied. Most homeowner’s insurance policies require that the named insured are a resident of the premises. Now that the owner has passed away, you need to let the insurance company know. Failure to notify the insurance company could jeopardize all of the coverage afforded by the policy since it is no longer their residence. Make sure that you document when and with whom you spoke with at the agent or the insurance company. You should also know how the property is titled; many times it is titled joint tenants with right of survivorship. If the other spouse still resides in the home it may be as simple as just correcting the named insured on the policy. The entire policy may need to be rewritten, if there is no surviving spouse or if the surviving spouse has decided to go live with family or to be in a nursing home.
Maybe other family members or even lifelong friends are going to stay at the property. The insurance company still needs to be made aware. Depending on the situation you may need a dwelling fire policy. Also, the friends should get their own renters insurance policy to cover their personal liability coverage and their belongings if there would be a claim.
Also, there may be a vehicle that was titled to the deceased. Where is that vehicle going to be kept? Are there additional drivers that will be using the vehicle before the titling of the vehicle is changed? If so, then the auto insurance company needs to be made aware of these drivers. Since the deceased could not give permission to these drivers to drive they need to be listed on the policy. In addition, many times the personal representative may decide to keep the vehicle at their home, which may be an issue if there is a claim and the company was not notified of the change in location.
Here is a quick reference of the things to do after the burial of your love one.
- Contact the Social Security Administration and or any other government agency or benefit program that may be making payments to the decedent.
- Review the Decedents financial affairs and look for any estate planning documents such as Wills and Trusts.
- Consult with an attorney about these documents and other estate matters
- Consult with an accountant if there will need to be final accounting completed
- If a Probate Bond is needed, contact Huff Insurance
- Open a bank account for the estate of the Decedent.
- Cancel all unnecessary services- such as cable TV, phone or newspaper subscriptions
- If there is life insurance in place contact the companies about filing a claim
- Contact the insurance company or agent for the home, auto, business or any other insurance policies that are in effect to see what changes need to be made. Maintain all coverage on all properties.
- Make an inventory of household goods, personal belonging and the like, in order that they can be accounted for and properly distributed
- Try to assemble the deeds of the Decedent to see what real estate, if any is owned. If there is real estate in other states, you may need to file probate in those states as well.
- IRAs, retirement plans, may involve beneficiaries.
- Do not be quick to distribute assets to family members as there maybe taxes due that need to be paid before they can be distributed
At Huff Insurance, we understand that this is a trying situation. Losing a love one is never easy. We hope that this short list of things to do does help you have a starting point in getting the affairs together. Again, we are sorry for your loss and wish you strength for the coming months ahead. Huff Insurance can take care of the probate bond, vacant dwelling insurance and rental properties as well as any other insurance issues that may arise.
Huff Insurance is a full service Trusted Choice® Insurance Agency. We have been dedicated to Protecting Lifestyles™ since 1960. We offer a full array of Personal Insurance, Commercial Insurance and Life Insurance & Health Insurance products. Call us at 410-647-1111.