The question of what happens to you after you die in a legal sense rests at the heart of estate planning and estate law. While this is not exactly a popular topic for discussion with most people, having a good understanding of what takes place after a person dies can greatly help you as you go about the estate planning process. In fact, many people who learn about the legal process that takes place after you die decide that creating an estate plan is something they want to do.
Today, as our next installment in our basic questions about estate planning blog series, we are going to take a look at what happens, legally speaking, after you die, and why having an estate plan is important.
What Happens After You Die: Funeral Arrangements
The first practical step that takes place after a person dies is someone has to decide how to dispose of that person’s bodily remains. In the best case scenario, the deceased person will have left behind clear instructions about what he or she wants with regards to a funeral, organ donations, and similar issues. That person will also have appointed someone to take charge of funeral arrangements, and will have also arranged for full payment.
In situations where someone has not created estate plan, a family representative will have to take charge and make these kinds of decisions. This is often a trying process as the family members have to make difficult choices all while dealing with the grief of their recently departed loved one.
What Happens After You Die: Beginning the Probate Process
Once the funeral process is concluded, the probate process typically begins. Probate, or the estate settlement process, is the legal process designed to determine who becomes the owner of the property left behind by the deceased person. Again, someone who had taken the time to craft an estate plan will leave behind comprehensive instructions on what to do throughout this process. In fact, many people who have an estate plan will leave behind tools that will greatly minimize, and possibly completely eliminate, the need for a probate case whatsoever.
On the other hand, when someone who dies without an estate plan, someone will have to go before a court and ask it to initiate a new probate case, as well as ask the court to name someone who will manage the deceased person’s property until new owners can be identified.
What Happens After You Die: Estate Settlement
Once a new probate case has been opened the estate settlement process begins. This process can be complicated and time-consuming, so we will take a closer look at estate settlement in our next discussion.