Consult an attorney that you trust to be ethical and is not in the business of taking advantage of someone during a stressful time. There is value in getting an experienced person to advise you about what needs to be done, what is within or against the rules, and what the law requires. Work that seems simple and straightforward can often be fraught with pitfalls the untrained eye will miss. Avoid costly missteps by seeking good advice up front. Losing someone is stressful enough!
Avoid making distributions from the estate (either financial or material) until you have consulted with an attorney about what is allowed. You no longer have authorization to make transactions for a client who is deceased.
What to expect if you have no legal documents in place, or only a will:
Probate, which usually takes about 2 years and will cost up to 10% of the total assets of the estate, including real estate. (Probate can also be required for any assets that were not properly funded into a trust.)
What to expect if you have an estate plan with a trust and other documents:
Trust Administration often takes 6-12 months and can cost between $3,000-5,000 (depending on the estate). The Trustee will have financial access to the estate during this process.
How does my estate plan function if I am incapacitated?
In the event that you are incapacitated, the plan will appoint a trustee who you have selected to manage your finances for you (including paying your bills!) The plan will also designate someone to make health care decisions on your behalf according to your wishes.
How does my estate plan function upon my death?
The estate plan outlines the details for how your assets are distributed according to the directions you chose when the trust was created. There is no automatic court supervision or probate of this process like there would be when someone dies with just a will. This makes settling the estate much faster and far less costly.