A loved one has died.  What to do?  Whom do I call? Family and friends are all advising.  Some are conflicting. Some are warning.  I feel so stressed.  What do I do?

First Things First: Take Care of Your Family and Yourself

Take care of your family and yourself. There is nothing to do immediately except this important task.  If you skip this step, you will pay for it later, and you will feel emotionally worse.  Do not get engrossed in calling employers, insurance companies, pension companies, lawyers or others.  A Last Will cannot be probated until ten days after the date of death anyway.  Use this time wisely.

Read the Last Will and Testament

See a Funeral Director

Under New Jersey statute, people can designate who will have control over their remains.  This designation must be in their Last Will to be enforceable.  Find the Last Will and read it.  If someone is named, then that person should contact a funeral director.  If not, the funeral director will look to a spouse, then children, to make the necessary arrangements. Receipts for all aspects of the funeral, including flowers and any lunch or dinner, should be kept, as these are deductible against any death tax payable later, and will be reimbursable to you.

See a Probate Attorney

Even if you are sure that you will be able to handle the estate by yourself, it is wise to spend an hour with a probate attorney to get advice before you go out on your own.  There’s a saying: “You don’t know what you don’t know.” There are legal notices that need to go out, deadlines that need to be met, and of course, the issues between family members that need to be addressed.  This is also where you can find out if the advice you have been receiving from others is valid.  Many times, it is not.  Don’t get fouled up.  See an attorney.

Go To The County Surrogate

Probate in New Jersey is easy and inexpensive, unlike in many other states.  It takes about twenty minutes and usually costs about $150.00.  If there is a Last Will, the proposed Executor should take the original Last Will, with a death certificate to the Surrogate’s office in the county where the deceased resided. If there is no Last Will, a family member will have to apply to the Surrogate to become the Administrator. This could be somewhat complicated, but since you will have previously met with an attorney, you will be prepared. Once you have “qualified” with the Surrogate, you will be given certificates that prove you are the Executor. Now you can administer the estate.

Law Offices of Robert J. Shanahan, Jr. has assisted hundreds of Executors and administrators.  It is likely that whatever issue you find yourself facing, SV Law has successfully handled it before, many times over. Because it is important that you not just make a decision, but make the right decision, you need SV Law coaching you through this process.  When can we meet?