If the worst has happened and a loved one has passed away, you may not know the best steps to take. You’re overcome by emotion and may not be thinking clearly. Or you may have gotten erroneous information from an online source, a friend or a loved one.

The one thing you should NOT do after your loved one passes away is to take the deceased’s person’s will to the courthouse without speaking to an attorney first.

When you submit a loved one’s will to the courthouse, the will automatically enters the probate process. However, the estate may be set up so that you may NOT need to open a probate estate. The only time you would need to go into probate is if you are unable to access certain assets or if the estate has debts that need to be settled.

What is Probate?

When someone dies, probate is the legal process that, first of all, proves in a court of law that their will is valid. It then identifies and provides an inventory of the deceased person’s property and assets, has these items appraised, and assigns payment of any outstanding debts and taxes. The remaining property is then distributed to the beneficiaries as stated in the will, or determined by state law if no will exists. The probate process can take months—or even years—and end up being quite costly.

Related: What is Probate?

Understand the Things You Should Not Do After Your Loved One Passes Away

As estate planning attorneys, we at McCarthy & Akers, PLC want to help prevent the mistakes people make when a loved one passes away. Let us help you protect your assets and your loved ones with an estate plan. Speak to us first.