Well mom passed a little over a week ago after being her caregiver for 4 years in my home. It's good for her as she isn't suffering any more and hard for me because I am still here dealing with so many emotions but knowing I will make it with the Lord's help. I thought I had it all planned out what to do when that day came and now I am lost and don't know even the first step to take! HELP I am trying to get in touch with lawyer friend who helped me in the past and didn't even charge me for services ( what a sweetheart) but knowing she is busy and waiting on her to get back to me to set up appt I don't have ANY money to pay another one at present due to I quit work to take care of mom.

I am VERY concerned about the next steps to start in dealing with mom's will, if it needs to be probated( does this require a lawyer or can I do it and do I need to do it?) and her credit card bills left behind. I am in TX Mom had a will. There are two of us kids. I was her POA and MPOA and now I am sole executress of her estate according to the papers she had drawn up and her will. There is no money left in her bank accounts she lived off ss and retirement pay, her only asset was her house she owned which she deeded of trust to me at POD ( or lady bird deed here in TX) and did it in her right mind several years ago( that lawyer made sure of it and I didn't even know about it until mom asked to do it) due to my sibling being non existent in her life. I have to address the cc bills as they are coming due shortly. Do I write a letter and send it with the death certificate or wait for the lawyer to help even if it's after they are due this month? I am paranoid to even access those accounts online now that she has passed and the POA is gone fearing it is not legal due to that. Do I contact the employer retirement services that was sending retirement checks to her? ( it was my dad's retirement fund when he passed it came to her and don't know if it ends now or comes to the survivors now)

It's like I have a little bit of knowledge but am lost for the next step. Any help appreciated!

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Deej, I'm sorry about your mom's death but happy that you realize that she's no longer suffering. That's a very healthy attitude.

The legal part is confusing for nearly all of us. It does sound like you really need at least one session with your lawyer friend. I think you can likely send death certificates to the cc companies, but I'm not an attorney and don't know the law. States may differ on what you can do, as well, so legal advice is a must.

I believe that you really do need to contact the people who control the retirement fund. Most would only pay until the spouse's death and you don't want money coming in that they would take back. If it goes to other survivors that would be wonderful, but you need to find out what to do, so I’d make that a priority.

Your state's Attorney General's office may be able to find you a pro-bono (free) attorney if your friend can't help you. You'd have to explain why you don't have the funds to help.

Meanwhile, keep checking back here. Agingcare has a fantastic community with people who've been where you are. They can offer a lot of emotional support. There are also experts on the site with legal backgrounds, so watch for answers from them.

I can offer you sympathy and support, but you do need an attorney (in my opinion).
Take care of yourself and take one step at least by notifying the retirement people.
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Deej - Sounds like your mom did some planning ahead and this will make things much much easier for you. Great on her part to do a Lady Bird deed, these are also called an Enhanced Life Estate Deed or a Transfer on Death Deed. If it was done correctly, the house should pass to you outside of probate as you are the default beneficiary. You or your attorney can literally go to the courthouse with transfer paperwork, the Lady Bird deed, the death certificate, a valid ID for yourself and record the new ownership. You can call the county clerks office at the courthouse to ask what you need to bring. I'd go around 10 AM as the judges are in session then and the clerks aren't as busy. Some courthouses do not take credit cards or checks for recording fees, so you need cash. Ask about this as you want to be as together & prepared in advance as you can be. Personally, it sounds like you'd be stressed to do this so I'd have your attorney do the paperwork for the recording as there needs to be extra page(s) for the stamps and signatures to be done just right. But then you can take the document she prepared (with it's nice blue legal paper cover) to the courthouse to record this. It will be cheaper this way too.

Also great that mom did a will as TX has it were if NO will, they are considered intestate and everything asceated to the state as owner till you prove lineal heirship. That is a PIA, which you don't have to worry about doing!

Realize that you DO NOT NEED TO RUSH INTO ANYTHING. Really truly you don't have to do anything right now but collect letter, bills and other documents that come your way. Texas allows for probate to run for 4 years from when the Letters of Testamentary are presented in probate court. AND you can wait to present letters like for months. Really. I've been executrix twice in TX and unless there is something of immediate importance (like a big real estate deal or foreclosure) there is no need to open probate immediately. You are still grieving and not thinking consistently. And you may not even have to do traditional full probate……but you need to determine the debts and assets to make that decision.

Realize how death & probate runs in TX…. like in addition to 4 years for probate, TX also is a Class Level of Claim for probate. Each debt is assigned into it's own class and paid by class. Debts against the estate are claims in TX, they are NOT liens. Claims just don't have as much force as a lien would…understand? Class 1 - 3 are funeral, burial, legal and other end of life associated medical bills and there can be payments made to the executrix (you) to manage or administer the estate through the months in which it goes through probate if there are the funds in the estate to do this. If there are no funds in the estate to pay the executrix for administration, then you do it for free or against the future sale of probated assets.

Medicaid's MERP program is a class 7 claim against the estate. Credit cards are a class 8 claim and they are s…out of luck in ever getting paid. That being said, the CC know that, so you may get phone calls and letters to try to pressure you to commit or agree to pay off your mom's cc debt. Do not agree to anything, they can't make you do this.

You didn't mention Medicaid, so i'm guessing that she won't have any Medicaid estate recovery (MERP) issues to deal with?? Medicare has no after death recovery, so if all she had was Medicare, no MERP worries for you.

However there are some things you can do now:
- go to a Kinko's/Fed Ex store and make a few copies of the will and Lady Bird and the death certificate. You want to carry a copy of these with you and leave the original at home or @ the attorney's office.
- you need several original death certificates. Each debtor, insurance company, retirement group, etc. will need an original death certificate to close-out, file or do whatever. So figure out how many (10 - 15 - 20) and then add a couple more and request them from the courthouse county clerks office. The first one is like $ 20 and then all the others are just a few $ so make sure to get all you need the first time. It may take a couple of weeks to have them sent. Some courthouses do this on-line & OK for credit cards while others require only cash or a cashier's check to buy them.
- do a file on any medical expenses. State of TX limits the amount of money that has to be repaid from the estate for medical within a set time as a Class 1 or 2 claim. I think it's $ 1,800 and the last year of bills. You don't want to pay a penny more than is required of an executrix if you do probate.
- do a file on credit card bills. Again under TX law, CC bills are a class 8 claim against the state. Fat chance they would ever get paid @ probate.
- SS death / funeral benefit. Did you file for that? Sometimes this is automatically done by the funeral home and it is credited against the funeral. It's about $ 260.00. If you didn't get the benefit, contact the SS office to see how to do this.
- bank account. If this is still open, I would suggest you pull yourself together and take your ID, the old DPOA (it's not valid anymore but establishes who you are) and a copy of the will that shows you named to be executrix, to see if they can leave the account as is and open but add "ESTATE OF" to the account with you as the signature on the account. You kinda need to have a bank account till all the retirement and any other $ items get cleared. Often the retirement check will get issued for additional months if it was tied to your dad's old SS # as your mom's death and SS death notice won't trigger a stop. But they will do a clawback on whatever they pay, so you want to keep the account open to let that happen. Some banks will want the probate attorney's name for establishing an estate account, other banks are more flexible. ALot of this will be totally subjective by the bank so that is why I say you need to pull yourself together and be organized when you go to the bank.
- do a listing of mom's assets like the household furnishings and anything else of value. Did mom do a "Deed of Gift" when she did the Lady Bird? Sometimes these get done at the same time to deal with the contents of the house.
- find her insurance policies. If you are the beneficiary on them, contact the insurance company & include a death certificate so that you can get those funds.

Maybe later on this month, do a tally of all the debt that mom had. Then what assets she had. Speak with your attorney friend on what to do based on what the debt & assets are. Really, if you can successfully record the property to you via the Lady Bird @ the county clerk's office, and mom has no other assets, she may say no need for probate. Or maybe done as small estate probate.

I will probably be doing my mom's estate as a Muniment of Title rather than probate
as her only asset will be her home and there seems to be a flaw in her Lady Bird deed. There's not just 1 way to do all this....

Good luck and do just a little at a time and remember to take time out for yourself. Go for a walk, to a park or something different to give yourself a break and a fresh perspective on things.
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My condolences. I do not have expertise to share on this, but I wanted to wish you well.
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Deej - Igloo here…i can tell by your latest post that you are starting to get yourself back together and organized. Fabulous! Just a little at a time and be sure to do things for yourself to get out & about & away from the house.

OMG about the funeral & burial. I know your pain. When my mom went onto hospice in June after her hip shatter (and yes hospice is all paid for by Medicare, so you should have no MedicAID recovery issues as your mom was at home with you, and this is good), I went to the FH to just check in and make sure all OK on her pre-need paid up policy done in the 1980's. Well lots of things NOT included….like costs of police escort, floral, other stuff that could easily run a couple of comma's. Oh and for more fun, my mom is back side of 90+ so everybody on her 2 lists for pallbearers is dead or too old & feeble to do it but I can rent a pallbearer for $ 50 each which is added to the FH bill. Then @ the cemetery there would be the opening closing like what you faced and again another comma in that. Yeah there was no prepay to open & close allowed till recently. Who Knew! My dad wanted a vault right overlooking the altar and they bought it as it was being built for maybe 2K in early 1980's. If he wasn't dead & in it, I could sell it for 13- 15K right now. Just the vault! Ridiculous but that is the death business and now it's cremations for me & my DH for sure. I'm so glad I did this in June because it has given me time to replan how to approach mom's funeral when that day finally comes. Our son hopes she makes 100…….

About the CC letters, I would suggest that you mail them all at the same time and when you do you send them all certified mail and return receipt from the post office. Go in advance to USPO and get a bunch of them. Return receipt is the green postcard at USPO. You can track and download the details on when they got the letter and the card provides a signature of receipt which gets mailed back to you. This will run about $ 7 a letter. It is priceless to have just in case there is any future issues on her debt. That won't likely come from the CC companies but from the debt buyers who can haunt you for the next couple of years.

About the Lady Bird, do you know how warranty deed's or other property stuff legal looks? There is a specific format that the courthouse needs to do all this and it gets a blue folder or cover. There may be a form on the ad valorem taxes and the taxpayer ID # for real estate transaction paperwork too. They need to scan it and review it and then have the signatures and notary stamp on the document(s). It will be easier to have your attorney friend do this for you as they will put in the details as they they prepared the document along with their address & state bar #. If she can't, then what you might do is go on-line to the land records section of the county courthouse and look at the recent warranty deed's filed in the judicial district or zone where the house is. What is going to show up is the same attorney's names over & over again, these are the guys who to this all the time and I'd go to them to do the Lady Bird filing paperwork. They do the paperwork and you can take it to the courthouse and walk it through rather than pay the law firm paralegal to do. It's pretty simple and the ladies at the courthouse are usually super knowledgeable and helpful to a newbie. You can also call a title company to do this, but they are probably going to pitch that you need title search & title insurance done plus the legal. This is a valid concern but I bet your parents were good about paying their taxes and their bills so there is nothing on the property to worry about.

Great about the bank account, keep it open so they can do the clawback without any issues on being overdrawn. About the insurance check, I'd try to just deposit the check (to your dad) into your mom's account. My dad died in the 1980's and my mom would still get checks in his name for ages later. The water bill @ her house is still in his name too and gets an annual rebate & an easement check. I just deposit it at one of the drive-thru banking lanes along with another check (the teller will be more distracted to make sure the checks add up correctly than looking at the signatures) and act all casual about it and there never has been an issue. See if you can do that rather than have to deal with it being in limbo as an estate issue. Take care & take time for yourself & your health.
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Oh about the life insurance check, bet you can do it IF it is a small amount like under $ 1,500 / $ 1,800. If it ends up being over 5K, then a simple deposit probably can't happen. A lot of this depends on the bank.
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Igloo 572 Thank you for the info as it gets me started and is what I needed a starting point. SS and retirement checks went direct deposit this month as usual. I was able to reach retirement services and they are sending out paperwork for me to fill out and sign for them to investigate if it stops or continues etc... I don't have any expectations for it to continue. I understood that hospice would inform ss of her death. I am not touching any of this money as I know they will take it back. Mom was placed on hospice not due to giving her six months to live but to get her help as well as myself due to failing health. She went the six months and was being re-evaluated for the next two months and they came literally the night before she passed. They told us she had days to live but she had only hours. So she was not on medicaid but again I was told medicare was picking up the tab on hospice. I contacted the one life insurance co she had a policy with and they are also sending out paperwork but I don't expect much money off of this. I am guessing it might be $1000. I have a feeling she never changed the beneficiary on it from my dad so assuming it will go the the estate so hoping it will help pay the last funeral costs. Mom had a prepaid burial plan but we were still hit up with $1700 we had to borrow from some one for the opening, closing of the grave and the cement block the casket is placed in because they " did not allow" to prepay this cost in '89 when she bought it. So this needs to be paid back. I sent word to the county asking their details in the Lady Bird Deed and waiting on them to respond. I am preparing letters to send to the cc companies explaining there is no estate and not being probated at present as we had already taken care of mom's household possessions as they were 20+ year old mattresses with even older frames, 20+ years old living room furniture and the dining room was put together chairs with a table. Nothing else of value no jewelry no stocks or bonds and the bank account only has the checks that will have to be returned. She had put my name on her bank account so I think I can keep it open so haven't told the bank anything yet. I was not listed on her cc. I had signing privileges on one cc which I asked to be taken off almost two years ago and hopefully they did my request. I just saw that they continued to get their payment as I was POA for mom.

So at least the ball is rolling and makes me feel better and then I will just be patient with it all .
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Remember to contact social security to stop checks or direct deposits. A lawyer can do probate for you and if there is no great assets to speak of probate may not be necessary.
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