If you have lost a parent to mesothelioma or another asbestos-related disease, the intense focus on funeral arrangements and last wishes can make you numb to the outside world.
Lingering in the back of your mind may be the leftover medical bills, the loss of support and guidance, and the financial pressure your own family is under.
You should know that financial relief is available for many families who have lost a loved one to mesothelioma.
Contact us now to talk about your legal options for pursuing the compensation you need and to know how to honor your loved one’s memory pursuing justice.
Our team can also help advise you on handling your loved one’s will and help your family with the probate and estate process.
Did Your Parent Leave a Will?
If your father or mother had a last will and testament, you will need to find and review that to determine how your parent wanted assets to be distributed.
If your parent had minor children, the will should also indicate who will care for them.
The will should name an executor, who is charged with making sure all debts are paid and that assets are distributed accordingly.
The executor is the person responsible for filing the will with the probate court.
How Can You Find Out If Someone Had a Will?
If you are not sure whether your loved one had prepared a will, you should contact his or her attorney (if there was one).
The attorney may have a copy of the will on file. If you cannot find evidence that your parent hired an attorney, some good places to check for a will would be:
- Filing cabinets and desk drawers in the home
- Home safes
- Home computers
- Safe deposit boxes (can be found through the person’s bank)
- Boxes tucked into closets
If you are running out of ideas for where your dad or mom may have stored a will, you may want to talk to other family members and close friends to see if they know anything.
You may also contact the Bar Association in the area where you parent lived and ask for help locating a lost will.
If you suspect someone else has the will and has been named executor, you can contact the local probate court to find out whether that person has filed the will.
What If Your Parent Didn’t Have a Will?
If your parent dies without having a will in place, decisions regarding the estate and custody of any minor children will be made by a judge.
The judge will refer to your state’s “intestate succession” law to identify heirs to the estate. These types of laws typically outline an ordered list of heirs, such as spouse, children, grandchildren, etc.
What Is Probate?
Probate is the legal process for settling parts of a person’s estate and ensuring debts are paid. When a person dies, the executor files the will with the probate court.
If there is no will, someone from the family (such as a spouse or adult child) must ask the court to appoint an executor (sometimes referred to as an administrator).
There are several issues that must be settled during the probate process, including:
- Notifying heirs of the person’s death
- Notifying creditors
- Taking inventory and appraisal of property and assets
- Paying all debts and taxes
- Resolving any challenges
- Distributing assets according to the will (or state law)
The probate process can take six months to a year or more, depending on how complicated the estate is. A skilled probate attorney can help take some of the pressure off of families by managing paperwork and ensuring legal deadlines are met.
Does Everything Have to Go Through Probate?
No. Many people who have an estate plan take precautions to prevent property from going through probate. For example, your parent may have:
- Placed property in adult children’s names or established joint ownership of assets
- Named beneficiaries on retirement accounts and other assets
- Moved assets into trusts
In addition, smaller estates may be eligible for summary probate proceedings, which are simpler and generally quicker than going through the formal probate process.
Different states have different thresholds for the value of estates that are eligible for summary probate.
Need Help Handling Your Parent’s Will and Probate Proceedings?
When you are coping with the devastating loss of a parent, the thought of going through their belongings and sorting through their paper work can be overwhelming. Especially when you have your own family to support, the extra duties of settling an estate can take a toll.
You should know that if you have lost a parent to mesothelioma or any other asbestos disease, your family may be entitled to compensation from the asbestos corporations that put your loved one in harm’s way.
Contact us now to discuss your options for demanding compensation for your loss. We can also help guide you through the probate process and connect you with the assistance and support you need during this difficult time.