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Mom age 91 with vascular dementia, has been in MC for 17 months. After a phone call yesterday that she is sick, I'm thinking I wouldn't know the first thing to do if she dies. My brother and I are both 70+. I am POA and will executor. Brother lives in Mom's house. I would like to avoid exorbitant attorney fees if possible. I found her will which divides everything equally between my brother and me. Is there some place I can find simple directive steps to follow? Or are there legal trip-ups that really need an attorney? TIA

Imho, the funds spent on an elder law attorney would be well worth it. Prayers sent.
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Reply to Llamalover47
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This happened to me when my father passed away (in New Hampshire) and then my aunt (in Chicago). If there are assets (like the house), there may be state requirements to file probate (depending on the amount of the assets), and it's best to have an attorney for that. Many things need to take place when someone passes away. The funeral home notifies Social Security/Medicare. You get a small death benefit from Social Security and they may ask you to return the last month's payment. Ask the funeral home for many copies of her death certificate. Many places may need to have (or see) original copies of the death certificate, although maybe in this time of covid these rules may have changed. It's good to have a list of all of her assets (house, car, bank account, investments, life insurance, etc.) For my aunt, I had to open a bank account for her estate and pay bills out of that account. Keep that estate account open for as long as you need it. For some time there will still be bills coming in and they have to be paid out of the estate account and there may also be payments coming in like insurance payments. Everywhere where she has accounts have to be notified and you have to know whether you want to close the account or change the name on the account. As executor you will be responsible for distributing her assets between you and your brother. You both should know what the plan is for the house. Will you sell it and split the proceeds or will your brother stay there? If he stays there, will he pay off his portion to you? You will need to change the title on the house to your name(s). I also ran an unclaimed funds search for my aunt (this is done with the state's Treasury/Finance department) and found some significant amounts of unclaimed funds in her name. And good advice below to locate all of her important ID cards.
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Reply to NYCdaughter
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I think the money spent on an attorney would be well worth any hassles that might arise, like did she have any outstanding debts that maybe you don't know about, etc.  Did she already have plans for the funeral and what to be done?  A lot of funeral places can give you information on who to contact, etc., also.  Better to be safe than sorry later down the road.  wishing you luck and maybe someone has more info than me.
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Reply to wolflover451
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Locate her birth certificate, her SS card, ID/license. You will need those things before you need the will - and you've already located that. The will can be dealt with after all of the funeral or other life celebration you have. Executor duties apply to the will after death. POA is while she's alive.

If you don't have arrangements for a funeral home, you might decide now who you are going to use and have the phone number handy for transport. Call the social worker at the facility and ask them what they would need to know upon her passing so you can gather the info.

She has a will, but is there anything that must go through a probate? Some folks have lady bird deeds (or similar) on the house that transfer house deed to someone upon death. The house is taken care of and is not part of estate to divide up. Do her bank accounts have another name on them with transfer upon death? Insurance policies with beneficiary listed. Those should not need probate.

If things are in her name that have to be sorted out in probate court, and no one is contesting anything, it's probably just a routine probate. Shop around for an atty and have all assets listed with agreed to distribution of property when you go. Should make it easier and cheaper. State to state, property division, taxes, etc vary - so that's why it's best to get an atty.
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Reply to my2cents
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Also know that you can take a fee as executor for all the work you will have to do.
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Reply to Invisible
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Funeral home was very helpful and included a checklist of what needed to be done after a loved one dies. Also found good information online. Each state has different requirements. I engaged an attorney with the priviso that I wanted to be an active part of the process, so they offloaded to me the things that didn't require filing papers, such as contacting life insurance and financial institutions. Saved some money that way. Taxes can get a little complicated when a loved one dies; do you have a good accountant?
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Reply to Invisible
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Look up the probate laws for your state. If you and your brother are named as beneficiaries or joint (TOD) owners of your Mother's property, you shouldn't need legal help for that. If the will just expresses the wish that you and your brother divide assets equally, you may need that to go through probate.

Is your mother terminal or just temporarily sick? I thought you were going to ask what to do about her physical remains. If she is terminal, you might want to choose a Funeral Home or Cremation Service to set up arrangements ahead of time for when they are needed.
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Reply to RedVanAnnie
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I found this checklist article very helpful after my mother died.

https://www.aarp.org/home-family/friends-family/info-2020/when-loved-one-dies-checklist.html
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AlvaDeer Nov 3, 2020
Thanks for this link. I find AARP so helpful with their many links on everything from fraud on out. I don't use their United Health Care Insurance, as I am a Kaiser Member, but my bro did, and they were great to deal with when I took over as his POA. I am an AARP member just because of the fine advocacy.
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If hospice is involved, call them. They will have dr certify death. If no hospice is involved, certification of death by county medical examiner needs to occur. I’ve only dealt with hospice, so I don’t know how that works. If your loved one dies in a hospital, personnel, including their social workers, will help you. You may need to ask for their services.

Call Social Security to report death (there’s a phone number for this purpose, google it. You’ll need her SS number. We did this almost immediately so check would be stopped from being deposited (in which case, SS will withdraw those funds from the account, at their convenience).

Notify funeral home to come for body of the deceased (decide on which one you prefer before a loved one’s death). If you want to spend time or have others come and spend time with your loved one’s remains, convey to funeral home. If interment is in a Veteran’s Cemetery, let funeral home know. They might help with arrangements. You’ll need service discharge papers (this can also be done in advance planning with the cemetery).

just my thoughts from experience...thinking of you as you make preparations for a difficult time
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Reply to jakefix
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From what I understand, only estates valued over a certain amount require probate. I was my mother's, brother's and sister's executors, and I did everything without court probate, as none of the estates were valued high enough to trigger probate. (In California I believe it's about $350,000.) I used a local attorney and realtor to sell mother's house and then divided the proceeds among the heirs.

While my sister was in hospice care, I arranged her cremation and internment with a local family-run funeral home. (Hospice had suggested this.) Paying ahead for "direct cremation" was about $1200, and included pick-up, cremation, death certificates, published obituary, and delivery of the ashes to me in a container. This was so convenient, not having to haggle over prices with funeral homes during grieving, that I have paid for my own this way. The price never rises, which is also reassuring.

I was on my sister's bank account as "In Trust For," and I could access the funds immediately after her death. This was very helpful. After my various experiences as an Executor, I have now put my Executor's name on my bank accounts, mobile home deed, and car title, all as "co-owner." This way she can immediately access my funds, and sell the home and car with no waiting periods.

Of course, no estate of "high value," which none of the above were, can avoid probate without a trust or attorney's advice in some way. I hope some of these pieces of advice are helpful.
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Reply to Mary9999
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my2cents Nov 3, 2020
In Texas, you must go through probate to distribute anything that is left in the 'estate' upon death. Like a checking account others can't get to. Transferring the deed of a house into the apprp
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Great advice given.
Id like to add suggestions as to probate. As far as how probate can run is totally dependent on your states laws. I’ve been an Executor x3 and each time it’s been somewhat different. The first thing ime is to determine if you have a valid will to present to Probate court to start the process. Look over her will, if is notarized and witnessed and original, you’ll probably be ok. Court wants the original, so make copies. If the will looks problematic, or is a holographic will, do full stop and get a probate attorney as this turns into dealing with intestate process or validation of person and it’s not a DIY imo.

Second I’d suggest that you do a quick estimate of what her likely debt and assets are and if anything has an “encumbrance” aka debt that’s securitized like a mortgage or car note. If she does, I’d again do a full stop and find a probate attorney. Probate has loads of filings that have pretty specific format and if there’s debts those likely have releases that need to be done, plus doing correct NOC (notice to creditors) filings, and doing correct distribution request to PC judge.

if she died owing zero, home & car in her name and you have all the original various Release of Deed of Trust or Titles for all real property and you are pretty comfortable in a courthouse, in that rare situation imho you can DIY it.
If so the next step would be to find out what levels of probate your states does and which format your moms Estate fits. Most states have 2, some have 3: 1. Small Estates Affadavit; 2. Muniment of Title; 3. Full / traditional probate where executor is named via Letters Testamentary and determined to be Independent Administration or Dependent Adminstration.
If she was on Medicaid after age 55, estate recovery (MERP) will likely be involved in some way. Just how very very much interdependent on how Medicaid does it for your state, like if they have outside contractor. Also your states laws on property rights & if exemption, exclusions or other probate related issues(Lady bird deed, Testamentary Trust, cost analysis for recovery) factor in big time.

If it’s just you & your Bro as heirs, and y’all get along, you can take your time to deal with probate. As others mentioned, most require a waiting period before anything can “open”. During this period there needs to be a call out to creditors in some way. Some states have set time for probate to close by while others allow probate to remain open till forever.

The formats for filings are exacting. Probate attorneys usually do all filings from preset formats - once initial in person is done- via on online portal that is tied to their bar #. The costs for probate should be low due to this unless there's issues.

The day of death will affect the taxes on any property that have a personal exemption. Like a homestead exemption. Property taxes will increase, perhaps significantly. In order to transfer title all taxes must be paid. So have your wallets prepared. You may want to prepay utilities and insurance too cause if there’s a credit balance they probably cannot require you to come in and change the name of the accounts (at best) or require completely new accounts be opened with a deposit (sigh!).
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Reply to igloo572
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In addition to what others have written, now is a good time to write your mother's obituary and a eulogy. Check to see that there are finances for her memorial service and burial/cremation services.
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Reply to Taarna
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When my dad passed this year I found a simple and direct list on google. It was a great help. We had no need for an attorney because my mother is still living. As hard as a death is its worse when you are not prepared.
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Reply to InFamilyService
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Bless you for taking this on. I found my “what to do when” list with a Google search and it was very helpful. You’ll get through it one day at a time. Remember to take care of yourself and allow time to grieve. I wish you all the best.
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Reply to M209M209
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This part is probably minor compared to much of the rest of what was mentioned in this thread, but it would be an excellent idea to write your mother's obituary (leaving a blank for the date of death, of course!). This will prove handy when "the time" comes, and will prevent mistakes being made. My sister and I learned this from recent experience--when we lost our mother, the funeral home wrote an obituary (posted on its website) that had some of the details correct, but the remainder was "pure fiction". (She had lived in other states most of her life, but the obituary was written as if her career, etc. were all local). I was furious, and immediately wrote a corrected version, and made sure what they had posted was changed.

My sister and I met with the funeral director the day after the death, and we dictated details, so either they had gone ahead before we got there, or the people doing this were, shall we say, not "rocket scientists"--and after meeting a couple of the staff members, I suspect the latter.
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Reply to jacobsonbob
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You can ask the Nursing home and they will do what is automatically done which is the body will be picked up and if you're going to have her cremated then you decide where and tell them the her remains would be picked up by you or it can be mailed to you which will be in a very small box that you can buy an urn to keep the ashes in or you can spread them.

Yoy should make a copy of the Will and discuss with your brother what his plans are since, no doubt you want the home sold so you can get your half of the home price.

If your brother wants to continue living in the home, he will need to pay you half of the homes value.

You could discuss it now abs tell him you'll have a Realtor come out to evaluate the home so your brother can see if he has the half up front to pay you for your share of the home or if it will be sold and the proceeds split between the two of you.

Your moms bank accounts should already have yours or your brother's name on them or at least have POD which is payable upon death and all you would need to get the money out is to show them a copy of the death certificate.

All estates will be prorated but it doesn't take thst long or expense when there is a will unless anyone in the will fights it.
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Reply to bevthegreat
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everything goes into probate that is not in your name. Death is a mess. I was lucky I avoided probate due to estate planning years before she died. Even with all that done, it was still hard. After her death, insurance companies had to be notified (home owner's and flood insurance), papers done (taking her name off) and the bank had to be notified. Electric company and water had to be notified. Most wanted a copy of her death certificate.

Although the funeral home notifies Social Security, CALL SS office; if she has any kind of military stipend they need to be called which includes TriCare. They are NOT notified. Still I would call Social Security immediately after she dies. When mom died I soon called the military (she was receiving a small stipend) including Tri-Care. I must stress, YOU have to call them. Nobody will notify them. I also notified the county commissioners as I pay homeowner's property taxes

Definitely pre-plan funeral arrangements because the funeral home will gouge you during grief. Preplanning is the only way to prevent that. You also get discounts for preplaning.
Without estate planning an estate attorney is unavoidable. You may want to contact the county to see if you are eligible for legal aid. Good luck.

Here is a good guide--:
https://www.agingcare.com/articles/estate-administration-probate-after-death-in-family-153107.htm
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Reply to cetude
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If your mom is able, you need to be added as POA on her bank account. I know you can pay a small fee to consult with an attorney on how to divide everything up. ❤️ If your brother and you are on good terms, that will be a big help. Is he co owner on the mortgage? Contact the mortgage company to find out what to do about the house.
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Reply to ARW0910
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disgustedtoo Nov 3, 2020
OP is already POA. Do be aware that POA ends at TOD, so that would not be useful for handling mom's account. As others advised, prepay funeral from any funds that are available and set aside any extra that might be needed to cover expenses that pop up right away. Otherwise, OP is executor, so any remaining funds would need to be transferred to an estate account.

Unless one has been down this road, it is probably best to consult with estate atty or a GOOD financial person (I started having mom's and the trust taxes done with Enrolled Agent, as they are IRS "approved" and have to stay up to date with any/all changes.) My mother's cousin passed many years ago and her sister, who wasn't local AND not well herself, was executor. The atty they were using was USELESS and very difficult to contact. A year and a day later, the sister also passed away. Through much wrangling to find out what was going on, I finally was told I was named the alternate (first I heard about it!) I immediately hired another attorney and it still took 2 years to finalize everything (the atty AND the sister really mucked things up!)
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You had some great advice from others here. I would recommend a consult with an attorney. Well worth the time and fee. My dad had a trust so of course we met with his trust attorney to find out our next steps and it was so valuable. I did get the EIN for dad online but there were some questions I didn’t know how to answer so our financial advisor helped there. If you have a CPA that does your taxes they could also help.
when I knew dad was nearing death I began to make a checklist of all the people I needed to notify, for instance, his rental insurance required by the facility where he lived, his pension, his magazine subscriptions, forwarded his mail to my home, his drug and health insurance plan, stock companies, and eventually I will close his credit card and bank. Right now they remain open as we haven’t closed the estate and I am on both of them.
the funeral home handles notifying social security which includes Medicare and will order the death certificates. Figure out how many you will need as they aren’t free.
as for a funeral, dad was 98+ and we had it prepaid. But since it was closed casket there was no need for embalming. So you can avoid that fee if you aren’t cremating. We had a simple gravesite service that we did and a few family attended. Played some hymns he liked and it was meaningful. It is good you are thinking about this now.
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Reply to Harpcat
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Are mom's bank accounts only in her name or is your name also on the accounts? If only in her name, then you probably need to get added to the accounts before she passes.
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Reply to annandpaul1629
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Get your ducks in a row now. The POA will be invalid at her death. If you are not a co-owner on her bank accounts you will not be able to use the funds. Consider contacting the attorney who drew up the will for device. Or see if a local law school has a free service for advice.

I was executor for my dad. I contacted a friends brother who is an attorney. He gave me a free consultation. Dad left everything to Mom and had pretty minimal assets so we didn’t need to go to probate.

The funeral home will get the death certificate and send it to you. Get several copies to send with applications for redeeming life insurance, etc. The bank will probably want one to close out accounts. And if you need to sell real property you will need proof of ownership.

You will need to notify Social Security and any agency that may be providing a pension, IRA, or other income producing investments. Some might want a death certificate too. The Life Insurance company responded pretty quickly as most people need that money for funeral expenses.
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Reply to Frances73
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Call The Neptune Society in your area for a consultation in your home. They provide a cremation service (if you're ok with that) and it's all inclusive; when your mom passes, you call Neptune. They send someone out immediately and take over from there. My parents signed up with them about 10 years ago for a very modest fee, I want to say $2500 per person at that time, and they did a great job when my dad passed away in 2015. They were very professional and handled everything with ease and speed.

As far as handling the division of her assets, I wouldn't have the first clue about that since I'm an only child and everything my folks had was put into my name in 2014. I just wanted to address the cremation portion of the matter.

Good luck!
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Reply to lealonnie1
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Compassionate5 Nov 3, 2020
Just an FYI here in SoCal. I prepaid my cremation and my sister's (dementia) for $950. each. This process starts the minute they are notified a death has occurred and they provide 2 or 3 death certificates.
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Go to a funeral home and start pre planning. Withdraw enough cash to immediatly cover the costs while you have POA. If you do a full funeral and worry about legal fees, set aside about 20 k. Cremation is a lot less but you can do the ballpark estimate now. That is unless you are on joint accounts. Sometimes financial institutions will not let you operate a checking account untill it becomes an estate. Her will may spell things out but you may not be able to move money or sell belongings until you file in probate. Especially if assets do not name a beneficiery or if you are not named in the real estate title. Just as Ikdrymom mentioned, it took more than 18 months to complete everything. Remember, you will need to set aside enough to complete next years tax filings

In my spare time, I did this for my brother a couple of weeks before his death. If things get better, retain all of the plans for another day. The funeral director handles quite a lot of the planning.
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Reply to MACinCT
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My father passed in July from Covid. Even though he was pretty much 'liquid' I am still trying to settle his estate.

Your immediate concern is to pre plan a funeral. The funeral home will help with a lot of things such as notifying Social Security of the passing. The will needs to be filed with the Surrogate. I had to do a lot of the work online because of covid. And you do have to wait 10 days before that process.

Once that is done you can go to the banks and get an estate account set up and work on closing other accounts. Some banks are very easy to work with, others not so much (FYI Bank of America is very difficult).

I was told by one bank that you should leave an estate account open for at least 2 years. You also have to get an EIN number for your deceased as their SS# is no longer valid. I am still waiting on his annuity to release his funds to me even though I was named beneficiary and I provided the with all the necessary paperwork months ago. I am not sure why all this has to be so hard.
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Reply to lkdrymom
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I would assume that MC has the name of the Funeral Home you will use. When Mom passes, MC will contact the home to pick her up. If you have prepaid and planned her funeral you are OK there. If not, then that will be your first step staying within ur States COVID restrictions. Funeral homes supply the death certificates and notify SS of the death. This takes care if Medicare too. Pensions will be your responsibility to notify of the death.

In my state its 9 or 10 days before you can probate the Will. You will take the Will to the County Probate office to have it filed. You will get a copy and pay a fee for a Short Certificate which will give u the authority to get to Moms financial accts and work with creditors. I did all the footwork when it came to getting tax IDs for the state and Federal governments. Probate should give you all the info needed. Since you and brother are the only beneficiaries, you may not have to Probate. All depends on the size of Moms estate.

The only reason I got a lawyer is because my brother inherited the house and didn't want it so paperwork needed to be drawn up for the house to go back to the estate. He was a family friend so from that point he took over. He made sure all my paperwork was in order. Handled the sale of the house and did the final accounting. His fees were paid by the sale of the house. If you and brother can agree on everything, you may not need a lawyer.

I do see maybe the house being a problem if you plan on turning over ur half to brother? Having him buy you out? Sell and split the proceeds? This you may need a lawyer for.

Don't let yourself get overwhelmed. Probate does not happen overnight. In my State you can't close out for at least 8 months. You have to give creditors time to make any claims on the estate. For me, Mom was gone 2 months before I even started Probate. So don't get ahead of yourself. One step at a time.
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Frances73 Nov 1, 2020
Good point. We were advised to keep my parents joint checking account open for a year after his death in case we got a payment that needed to be deposited into his account.
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You say you don't know anything. Then you will need an attorney or some other guide through all of this. There really is no way around that as it does take knowledge.
There are many books about serving as POA and Trustee and Executor. Go to Amazon and look for them. I poured through a ton of them.
I spent only 1 1/2 hour in attorney office to administer my brother's Trust and Estate. Under 1,000.00 and the best money I ever spent.
The more you know the more you can do yourself.
However I tried to get my own EIN to help things move along, but due to Covid 19 the IRS is working from home and it took three months for them to write back with a question for me. I finally had Lawyer do it online; took her minutes to get it.
I found this book easy and useful for a start:
Title: Please Don't Die! But if You Do WHAT DO I DO NEXT? Written by Kurt Grube and Keith S. Grube, Esq. with John Nevola
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k3barlow Nov 1, 2020
Thank you so much for the book referral. Already downloaded it!
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Each states laws are a little different. You can google ‘steps to probate in California“ or whichever state your moms estate is located. When you look over the steps it might help you decide if you need an attorney. In some states it’s not necessary to probate the will depending upon what moms assets are and how they are titled. An attorney could help you with that.
As Windy said, it’s good to pre plan her funeral and make Necessary expenditures while you are still POA, Perhaps you are already co owner of her bank account which will make things easier after she passes. If not, you will need Letters of Testamentary showing you have the authority to make transactions for the estate and that can take awhile.
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Reply to 97yroldmom
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Frances73 Nov 1, 2020
True, I am Mom's POA and have been carefully selling everything she owns to pay for her care. In the end the only asset she might have is a small insurance policy to cover her funeral expenses.
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Most immediately do you know if there’s a plan for her funeral and burial or cremation? I’m forever grateful that my dad did that planning in advance, it didn’t solve all the issues with the funeral vultures, but it went a long way in helping. If this isn’t already done, see what funds your mom has to do it now, and know it’s fine to keep it simple and not get swindled into expensive options.
And do you know plans for mom’s house? Will brother be moving out or do you plan to have him buy out your share and him remain there?
I’ve found that estate attorneys aren’t horribly expensive and their time is worth paying for, they tend to think of things I wouldn’t have considered
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Reply to Daughterof1930
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One of the best things to do would be to arrange a pre paid funeral, or cremation using her funds if she has any. Funeral home will cancel her social security if she has any.

Keep in mind that your POA ends upon her death. You can no longer write checks on her accounts.

Have the funeral home provide you with plenty of death certificates. You’ll need this for probate, insurance, bank accounts etc.

Hopefully you have a signed original of her will.

If you have to go through probate you almost have to get a lawyer. I’m going through probate now with my dads estate. I’m lucky as my wife is an attorney. I could never have gotten through on my own.
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