It’s always a difficult time when you lose a loved one. Usually, one of the first places one visits will be the lawyer’s office who drew the will or trust. The will or trust isn’t usually read to a gathering of family “Hollywood style.” Rather, the lawyer discusses the administrative steps that the personal representative (executor of a will) or trustee (of a trust) must take before distributions are made to the beneficiaries.
You don’t want to wait too long before visiting with the attorney, since there are time deadlines, both legal and tax. With that said, visiting the attorney’s office during the immediate days following the passing isn’t usually helpful either, as the shock of the loss numbs senses. My suggestion is to wait a week or more, unless the parties are in town only for a few days and need to initiate the administrative process prior to heading home.
The question therefore arises as to what you need to bring to the attorney’s office when a loved one dies. The following is a laundry list of items that will make that first meeting go more smoothly:
- 1. Original of the last will, revocable trust, and any codicils or amendments;
2. Certified copy of the death certificate;
3. Copies of most recent bank and brokerage statements;
4. Certificate of Deposit statements;
5. Savings bonds;
6. Copies of deeds to real property;
7. Copies of stock certificates;
8. Most recent Form 1040 Tax Return;
9. Federal Gift Tax Returns Form 709s previously filed;
10. Information related to any unreported taxable gifts;
11. Information regarding loans, notes, mortgages and indebtedness;
12. Most recent credit card statements;
13. Amounts paid or forwarded for burial, clergy, service and reception;
14. Addresses and contact information of family members who may be beneficiaries as well as those serving as co-personal representative and/or trustee;
15. Names and contact information of financial advisors, insurance agents, CPAs, tax return preparers and other such professionals;
16. Copies of ownership interests in closely held businesses and any shareholders or partnership agreements that the deceased may have been a party to;
17. Prenuptial or postnuptial agreements, if any;
18. Copies of trusts and related account statements of which the deceased was a beneficiary at the time of his or her death;
19. Tangible personal property lists signed by the deceased that directed the distribution of such;
20. Automobile titles;
21. Information related to any safety deposit box leased;
22. Life insurance policies and statements including copies of the beneficiary forms;
23. Annuity information, including gift annuities.
Each situation is different, so there may be items that I have not included on this list that are pertinent. Certainly, not everyone will have all of the suggested items, and will almost always take time to marshal all of this information.
The more information that you can quickly provide your attorney, the better.