In a legal sense, knowing what happens after a family member dies is important for everyone in Kansas, Missouri and Oklahoma. While the topic is not exactly a pleasant one to consider or discuss, there are some practical concerns that will have to be addressed following the death of a loved one. In fact, learning what happens after a family member dies can be, for many people, the very reason why they decide to begin estate planning in the first place. Today we are going to take a look at the legal steps that take place after a family member dies so you can better understand what you might need to be prepared for.
After a Family Member Dies: Arranging the Funeral
The first practical step that arises after a family member dies is that someone will have to take control of the bodily remains and arrange for a funeral. In the best of circumstances, the deceased family member, known legally as a decedent, will have made comprehensive arrangements already. The decedent will have not only left clear instructions about the kinds of funeral arrangements he or she wanted to be made, but will have also paid for any funeral expenses, as well as appointed someone who will be in charge of making any decisions that have not otherwise been made.
On the other hand, when someone dies without leaving behind clear instructions it will fall to a family member or other representative to begin making the appropriate arrangements.
After a Family Member Dies: Opening the Estate
Sometime after the conclusion of the funeral someone will have to go before a probate court and ask the court to open a new case. This is often referred to as the opening of the estate, or probate. The person who asks the court to do this will also have to ask the court to name an estate administrator. The administrator will have the legal responsibility of managing all the estate property and determining who becomes the new owner.
Again, in the best case scenario the decedent will have left behind an estate plan that already deals with the reality of opening the estate. In fact, many estate plans will use tools that will minimize the role the court will play in settling the estate, and the probate process itself will be greatly minimized.
After a Family Member Dies: Estate Settlement
Once a court has opened a new probate case, the estate settlement process then begins. This process is often complicated and time-consuming, so we will spend a little time going over it in our next discussion on this topic.
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