The loss of a family member is an incredibly difficult time. In addition to coping with your grief and potentially planning a memorial service or funeral, there are usually many financial decisions that will need to be made.

How do you know what you’re supposed to do? It can be incredibly overwhelming. Here is a list of steps to help reduce stress during this time.

  • Contact your financial advisor so they can help you evaluate the financial aspects of the situation.
  • Also, contact the person’s estate attorney to see if they have an estate plan. This might include a will and revocable trust, for example. The attorney should be able to tell you if there is an:
    • Executor of the will and who it is
    • Trustee of any trusts that exist
    • A guardian for the care of a child and financial management while the child is a minor
  • Keep track of your phone calls and contacts (e.g., dates, times, status) in an online document or notebook. It will be helpful to find the individual’s passwords and have them in one place.
  • Locate a local notary, as they will be needed, the attorney’s office may have a notary available.
  • Obtain multiple copies of the certified death certificate. Some companies will not accept a photocopy. This is common with insurance policies and annuity contracts, and transfer of deeds for example.
  • Obtain a certificate of appointment to document the authority to act as personal representative, if required in your state. Keep in mind that language used to describe aspects of settling an estate can vary in each state.
  • Open an estate checking account, if necessary, to pay bills and receive accounts/assets associated with settling the estate. If you open a checking account for the estate, you’ll need to get an employer identification number through IRS Form SS-4, Application for Employer Identification Number.
  • Determine how the person’s assets/property will be maintained during the estate settlement process.
  • Contact the Social Security Administration. Inquire about survivors’ benefits. You might also be eligible for a one-time death payment.
  • Look into veterans’ benefits (if applicable) and possible assistance with burials costs for veterans and their spouses.
  • Contact financial organizations to find out how to update ownership and beneficiary designations on joint financial accounts (investment, bank, and credit accounts).
  • Contact financial organizations to determine how to close single-owner financial accounts and transfer assets.
  • Update names and beneficiaries on insurance policies, including life, health, and auto policies. Among the insurance providers, also confirm the coverage requirements to maintain the person’s assets (including the car).
  • Update the property title(s) for real estate. If property was owned in multiple states, review the probate process in each state. (For non-resident states, ancillary probate may be necessary.)
  • Contact a deceased spouse’s employer (if applicable) if there is a 401(k) account and a group insurance policy. It may also be necessary to contact former employers that may have provided a group life insurance policy. The person may also have retirement plans through former employers.
  • Contact all three major credit bureaus to minimize the risk of identity theft.
  • Locate the title and registration for any cars, so that you can update the vehicle title and registration; cancel the driver’s license.
  • Close email and social media accounts.
  • If the deceased is a spouse then the surviving spouse previously named their now-deceased spouse as their durable power of attorney or medical power of attorney, they will need to name a new person.

The entire process can be overwhelming, it is important to have a board-certified estate planning attorney involved to ensure all aspects of the estate plan are followed.

Call the Law Offices of Debra G. Simms at 386.256.4882 to learn more. We are currently offering free consultations via video conference to assist you with your needs.

This blog post is not case-specific and is provided only for educational purposes and is not intended to provide specific legal advice. Blog topics may or may not be updated and entries may be out-of-date at the time you view them.

What actually is your estate?

An estate is your net worth on your date of death.

It includes all property that you own or control such as bank accounts, real estate, life insurance policies, stocks, and personal property like artwork, jewelry, and vehicles.

And, an estate also includes your debts, such as car loans, mortgages, and credit card debt.

What is an Estate Plan and Why is it so Important to have one?

No one likes to think about death, but, it is important to be prepared when the time comes so that your loved ones have a clear understanding of your final wishes.

Estate planning is making a plan in advance that provides details of how you want things handled when you pass.

So, basically an estate plan is a set of written instructions that describes how and to whom you want your property to be distributed after you die.

An estate plan may also provide other details such as funeral arrangements and care for pets when you have passed. 

Complete estate plans should also include health care instructions if you should become ill or disabled before you pass. You should also direct who can make financial and legal decisions for you if you become ill or disabled.

Call the Law Offices of Debra G. Simms at 386.256.4882 to learn more.

This blog post is not case-specific and is provided only for educational purposes and is not intended to provide specific legal advice. Blog topics may or may not be updated and entries may be out-of-date at the time you view them.

The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that same-sex partners have a constitutional right to marry, nationwide. The Court’s ruling takes away any previous ambiguity about the recognition of same-sex marriages in Florida. What does this mean for same-sex spouses who are purchasing real estate together?

Same Sex Tenancy by the Entireties

Same-sex married couples can now take title together as tenancy by the entireties. Formerly, same-sex couples were limited to tenancy with rights of survivorship and tenancy in common.

Tenancy by the entireties is a type of survivorship deed – when one of the parties dies the property passes automatically to the other without the need of probate. But holding the property as tenancy by the entireties, (formerly only available to “husband and wife”) has the advantage of providing creditor protection to the parties – judgments against one same-sex partner will not attach to property they hold as a married couple.

Furthermore, the Old Republic Title Co., formerly, Attorney’s Title Fund, has notified its member agents that it will treat any indication of marriage (i. e, a married couple, married to each other, husband and husband, wife and wife, etc.) as entireties property. This is big. The Fund is usually the last word on title issues in Florida and it is notoriously conservative.

If you have any questions, please contact the Law Firm of Debra G. Simms.

Debra G. Simms
To contact attorney Debra G. Simms, P.A. in Port Orange or New Smyrna Beach, FL please call 877.447.4667.

Short Sales

short sale may seem like a great way to avoid the financial devastation of foreclosure, but it’s not always the smartest move. There may be better legal protections by going the foreclosure route and the damage to your credit score may be the same.  Here are some things you should know before you decide:

Your credit score will tank just the same

A short sale and a foreclosure have the same impact on your credit score because they are both regarded as serious delinquencies, according to a spokesman from Fair Isaac, the company that calculates the FICO score.  Other factors, such as what the credit score was before the short sale or foreclosure, may have a greater impact.

2. The lender may come after you for the difference

In a short sale, the bank will almost always try to get you, the homeowner, to sign an agreement to pay back the difference between the amount you owe and the final sale price. It’s up to you, or your attorney, to get the the lender to agree not to pursue any further payment.  The demand for payment may come years later, long after you thought you were fully recovered!

3. You’ll have less time to recover financially and emotionally

In Florida, a foreclosure takes several months or longer.  This is a time when you are not making house payments, and can help you prepare financially and emotionally to leave your property.  You give that up with a short sale.  When the house sells and closes, you are out.
Debra G. Simms
To contact attorney Debra G. Simms, P.A. in Port Orange or New Smyrna Beach, FL please call 877.447.4667.

Contact Us

Port Orange Office:
Prestige Executive Center
823 Dunlawton Ave. Unit C
Port Orange, FL 32129
Local: 386.256.4882
Toll Free: 877.447.4667
New Smyrna Beach Office:
817 E. 7th Ave
New Smyrna Beach FL, 32169
Local: 386.256.4882
Toll Free: 877.447.4667