COVID-19 and Probate Estate
Losing a loved one is difficult regardless of the circumstances, but in a global pandemic, the process of administering a loved one’s estate can be extremely frustrating. The procedures have changed slightly, many of which have gone online, and it can be hard to know where to start. Here are some things to keep in mind that will make the process just a little easier.
The first step is to gather all the relevant documents. This will inevitably start with the original will and trust (if they had one) and the original death certificate. You can order more than one original death certificate, and this may be useful to liquidate assets. Gather any paper statements from the mail, like monthly statements of financial assets. Prior income tax returns will also be helpful for information on the assets.
Next, you want to reach out to the right people. On this list will be your loved one’s attorney, their wealth manager, their accountant, and your attorney. All these contacts will be familiar with the probate process and have knowledge on the updated operations in the age of COVID-19. Arrange socially distant meetings, or even video calls, to discuss the process. Your attorney will be instrumental, as they can guide you in exactly the right direction to make this process as painless as possible. They can show you how to file documents electronically, which is a fairly new method of filing for the probate court that was brought about because of the pandemic.
Next, think about tax returns. The IRS automatically extended estate tax returns that were due on or after April 1, 2020 to now be due July 15, 2020. However, this extension does not apply to someone who dies now without further extension. You will have nine months to file an estate tax return. If your loved one didn’t file their 2019 income tax returns, the due date for that has also been extended to July 15, 2020 in most states. Gather income tax returns and any gift tax returns from the past three years that may have been filed.
Next is assets. If your loved one was a homeowner, that property will need to be secured. Notify the insurance company that the home is now vacant and have someone check on the property. Locks may also need to be changed. Talk to your financial advisor and your attorney about any assets that should be liquidated from this property. If any assets have beneficiary designations (like life insurance or retirement funds), contact those companies and complete paperwork as quickly as possible so those assets can be liquidated. This process will require an original death certificate.
At Kendrick Law Group, we understand how overwhelming it can be trying to administer an estate while mourning a loved one. Our attorneys have the expertise and sensitivity to guide you through this process with ease and comfort. Contact us today for a consultation.
Co-written by: Layne Cohen, Law Clerk