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TRUST ADMINISTRATION
& PROBATE RESOURCES

Bereavement Resources

The Center for Loss of Life Transition is dedicated to furthering their understanding of -and compassion for- the complex set of emotions called grief. Their mission is to help both the bereaved, by walking with them in their unique life journeys, and bereavement caregivers, by serving as their educational liaison and professional forum. Click Here for more info
The National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization (NHPCO) is the largest nonprofit membership organization representing hospice and palliative care programs in the United States. The organization is committed to improving end of life care and expanding access to hospice care with the goal of profoundly enhancing quality of life for people dying in America and their loved ones. Click Here for more info or call (703) 837-1500

Grief, Loss & Recovery offers emotional support and friendship and provides a safe haven for bereaved persons to share their grief. This is a safe place for people to mourn–emotionally, physically and spiritually. Click Here for more info

Bereavement Articles

  1. Are you always irritable, annoyed, intolerant, or angry these days?
  2. Do you experience an ongoing sense of numbness or of being isolated from your own self or from others? Do you usually feel that you have no one to talk to about what’s happened?
  3. Since your loved one died, are you highly anxious most of the time about your own death or the death of someone you love? Is it beginning to interfere with your relationships, your ability to concentrate, or live as you would like to live?
  4. Do you feel that you are always and continually preoccupied with your loved one, his or her death, or certain aspects of it even though it’s been several months since his or her death?
  5. Do you usually feel restless or in “high gear”? Do you feel the need to be constantly busy… beyond what’s normal for you?
  6. Are you afraid of becoming close to new people for fear of losing again?
  7. Do you find yourself acting in ways that might prove harmful to you over time: drinking more than you used to; using more prescription or non-prescription drugs; engaging in sexual activity that is unsafe or unwise; driving in an unsafe or reckless manner (beyond what’s normal for you); or entertaining serious thoughts about suicide?
  8. Are you taking on too much responsibility for surviving family members or close friends? (What’s too much responsibility? That varies greatly and depends on the situation, but if you’re feeling heavily burdened by it, angry, or like the situation is “suffocating” you, it might be time to speak with someone.)
  9. Do your grief reactions continue, over time, to be limited in some way? Are you experiencing only a few of the reactions or emotions that usually come with grief? Are you unable to express your thoughts or feelings about your loved one and his or her death in words or in actions? Do you remember only certain aspects of your loved one or your relationship together, for example only the good parts as opposed to a more complete and balanced view of him or her?
  10. Is there some aspect of what you’re experiencing that makes you wonder about whether you’re normal or going crazy? Do you feel stuck in your grief in some way, unable to move on, even though it’s been quite some time since your loved one’s death?

Upon the death of a loved one, great emotional sadness sets in as family and friends support each other during this time of loss. After finding a firm emotional foundation, it is time to address the task of administering the estate set up by the deceased.

Included below is a brief list of the actions which you or your Personal Representative and Trustee should take immediately upon death. (Many of these actions may similarly be required in the event of incapacity). This is not intended as an exhaustive or detailed explanation of all actions which should be taken. Rather, it is for use as a checklist to help the appointed representatives step in and handle as expeditiously as possible those items which demand immediate attention.

  1. Consider advising any surviving family member who is alone to telephone a friend who can share the next few hours. Shock and trauma due to the death of a relative can take unexpected forms
  2. Notify a funeral director and clergy, and make an appointment to discuss funeral arrangements. For our clients, consult the “Location List” and the “Estate Planning Letter” sections in your Portfolio for the names and phone numbers of the appropriate parties and any special requests of the decedent. Request several copies of decedent’s death certificate, which you’ll need for his or her employer, life insurance companies, and/or decedent’s attorney for legal procedures
  3. Contact by phone and notify the immediate family, close friends, business colleagues and employer (for our clients, see “Location List” section for persons to contact)
  4. Arrange for care for members of the immediate family, including appropriate child care, having people at the decedent’s house, etc
  5. Locate the decedent’s important papers. For our clients, consult the “Location List” section in your Portfolio. Gather as many of the decedent’s papers as possible, and continue to do so for the next few weeks
  6. Contact our office for your consultation or notify the attorney who will be handling the decedent’s affairs. Make an appointment immediately because a tax return may be due within nine (9) months of death. This meeting is important to review decedent’s estate planning documents and to discuss state and federal death taxes that may be payable. The attorney will also determine the extent to which it is necessary or advisable to open a probate estate. (In the event of incapacity, the attorney may suggest additional steps which should be taken for estate planning purposes, particularly if death is imminent.
  7. Telephone decedent’s employee benefits office with the following information: name, Social Security number, date of death (or incapacity); whether the death (or incapacity) was due to accident or illness; and your name and address. The company can begin to process benefits immediately
  8. If decedent was eligible for Medicare, notify the local program office and provide the same information as in Step # 7
  9. Notify life, accident or disability insurers of decedent’s death or disability. Give the same information as in Step # 7, and ask what further information is needed to begin processing your claim. Ask which payment option decedent had elected, and select another option if you would so prefer. If there is no payment option, you will be paid in a lump sum
  10. Notify the decedent’s Social Security office of the death. Claims may be expedited if a surviving family member goes in person to the nearest office to investigate making a claim for survivor’s benefits. Look for the address under U.S. Government in the phone book
  11. If you need emergency cash before insurance claims are paid, a cash advance may be available from life insurance benefits to which you are entitled
  12. If decedent was ever in the military service, notify the Veterans’ Administration. Surviving relatives may be eligible for death or disability benefits
  13. Record in a small ledger all money you or the immediate family spends. These figures may be needed for tax returns
  14. Remember that a surviving family member may be in a highly emotional state. Therefore, they should avoid entering contracts for anything, and avoid spending or lending large sums of money. For our clients, consult the section of the Portfolio entitled “Other Documents” before proceeding further
  15. DO NOT CHANGE THE TITLE OF ANY ASSETS! This can create unnecessary problems for you. Please contact our office for a consultation before starting this process.

Upon the death of a loved one, great emotional sadness sets in as family and friends support each other during this time of loss. After finding a firm emotional foundation, it is time to address the task of administering the estate set up by the deceased.

Included below is a brief list of the actions which you or your Personal Representative and Trustee should take immediately upon death. (Many of these actions may similarly be required in the event of incapacity). This is not intended as an exhaustive or detailed explanation of all actions which should be taken. Rather, it is for use as a checklist to help the appointed representatives step in and handle as expeditiously as possible those items which demand immediate attention.

  1. Consider advising any surviving family member who is alone to telephone a friend who can share the next few hours. Shock and trauma due to the death of a relative can take unexpected forms.
  2. Notify a funeral director and clergy, and make an appointment to discuss funeral arrangements. Request several copies of decedent’s death certificate, which you’ll need for his or her employer, life insurance companies, and/or decedent’s attorney for legal procedures.
  3. Contact by phone and notify the immediate family, close friends, business colleagues and employer.
  4. Arrange for care for members of the immediate family, including appropriate child care, having people at the decedent’s house, etc.
  5. Locate the decedent’s important papers. Gather as many of the decedent’s papers as possible, and continue to do so for the next few weeks.
  6. Contact our office for a consultation or notify the attorney who will be handling the decedent’s affairs. Make an appointment immediately because a tax return may be due within nine (9) months of death. This meeting is important to review decedent’s estate planning documents and to discuss state and federal death taxes that may be payable. The attorney will also determine the extent to which it is necessary or advisable to open a probate estate. (In the event of incapacity, the attorney may suggest additional steps which should be taken for estate planning purposes, particularly if death is imminent.)
  7. Telephone decedent’s employee benefits office with the following information: name, Social Security number, date of death (or incapacity); whether the death (or incapacity) was due to accident or illness; and your name and address. The company can begin to process benefits immediately.
  8. If decedent was eligible for Medicare, notify the local program office and provide the same information as in Step # 7.
  9. Notify life, accident or disability insurers of decedent’s death or disability. Give the same information as in Step # 7, and ask what further information is needed to begin processing your claim. Ask which payment option decedent had elected, and select another option if you would so prefer. If there is no payment option, you will be paid in a lump sum.
  10. Notify the decedent’s Social Security office of the death. Claims may be expedited if a surviving family member goes in person to the nearest office to investigate making a claim for survivor’s benefits. Look for the address under U.S. Government in the phone book.
  11. If you need emergency cash before insurance claims are paid, a cash advance may be available from life insurance benefits to which you are entitled.
  12. If decedent was ever in the military service, notify the Veterans’ Administration. Surviving relatives may be eligible for death or disability benefits.
  13. Record in a small ledger all money you or the immediate family spends. These figures may be needed for tax returns.
  14. Remember that a surviving family member may be in a highly emotional state. Therefore, they should avoid entering contracts for anything, and avoid spending or lending large sums of money. For our clients, consult the section of the Portfolio entitled “Other Documents” before proceeding further.
  15. DO NOT CHANGE THE TITLE OF ANY ASSETS! This can create unnecessary problems for you. Please contact our office for a consultation before you start this process.

Mourners Bill of Rights

By Alan D. Wolfelt, Ph.D.

  1. You have the right to experience your own unique grief. No one else will grieve in exactly the same way you do. So, when you turn to others for help, don’t allow them to tell you what you should or should not be feeling.
  2. You have the right to talk about your grief. Talking about your grief will help you heal. Seek out others who will allow you to talk as much as you want, as often as you want about your grief.
  3. You have the right to feel a multitude of emotions. Confusion, disorientation, fear, guilt, and relief are just a few of the emotions you might feel as part of your grief journey. Others may try to tell you that feeling angry, for example, is wrong. Don’t take these judgmental responses to heart. Instead, find listeners who will accept your feelings without condition.
  4. You have the right to be tolerant of your physical and emotional limits. Your feelings of loss and sadness will probably leave you feeling fatigued. Respect what your body and mind are telling you. Get daily rest. Eat balanced meals. And don’t allow others to push you into doing things you don’t feel ready to do.
  5. You have the right to experience grief ”attacks.” Sometimes, out of nowhere, a powerful surge of grief may overcome you. This can be frightening, but it is normal and natural. Find someone who understands and will let you talk it out.
  6. You have the right to make use of ritual. The funeral ritual does more than acknowledge the death of someone. It helps provide you with the support of caring people. More important, the funeral is a way for you to mourn. If others tell you that rituals such as these are silly or unnecessary, don’t listen.
  7. You have the right to embrace your spirituality. If faith is a part of your life, express it in ways that seem appropriate to you. Allow yourself to be around people who understand and support your religious beliefs. If you feel angry at God, find someone to talk with who won’t be critical of your feelings of hurt and abandonment.
  8. You have the right to search for meaning. You may find yourself asking, “Why did she or he die? Why this way? Why now?” Some of your questions may have answers, but some may not. And watch out for the clichéd responses some people may give you. Comments like, “It was God’s will” or “Think of what you have to be thankful for” are not helpful and you do not have to accept them.
  9. You have the right to treasure your memories. Memories are one of the best legacies that exist after the death of someone loved. You will always remember. Instead of ignoring your memories, find others with whom you can share them.
  10. You have the right to move toward your grief and heal. Reconciling your grief will not happen quickly. Remember, grief is a process, not an event. Be patient and tolerant with yourself and avoid people who are impatient and intolerant with you. Neither you nor those around you must forget that the death of someone loved changes your life forever.

Trust Administration & Probate Definitions

Agent:
A person authorized to act on behalf of another person, the “principal.”

Appraiser:
Determines the value of hard-to-value assets – such as a business, real estate, or various types of collections – for tax purposes, as well as to assist the trustee in establishing values for distributions.

Beneficiary:
A person entitled to receive benefits from the trust. The trust’s assets may be distributed outright to the beneficiary, or they may continue to be held in trust for the beneficiary.

Decedent:
The deceased person.

Estate Planning Attorney:
The point-person for the trust administration, assisting the trustee with the inventorying of assets, preparation of estate tax (Form 706) and other tax returns, making of tax elections, and distribution of trust assets as provided under the trust document. Often, the estate attorney coordinates the interaction of other professionals needed for the trust administration.

Executor:
In the case of individuals who have died intestate, the person playing the role of executor is often called the administrator or personal representative.

Financial Planner:
Assists the trustee or estate planning attorney in valuing securities, re-titling assets, and making distributions to the beneficiaries.

Funding a Trust:
Transferring ownership of the property to a trust.

Gift:
A voluntary, gratuitous transfer of property made to another person.

General Partner:
One or more persons carrying on a business for profit as a partnership or limited partnership, having personal liability for all debts of the partnership, and, if in a limited partnership, having control of operations of the partnership.

Intestate:
Each state has its own set of laws dealing with the procedure to be followed when an individual dies without a Will.

Life Insurance Agent:
Assists the trustee or estate planning attorney in obtaining death benefits that may be payable to a beneficiary or the trust itself.

Limited Partner:
One or more persons associated in a limited partnership, having no personal liability for the debts of the partnership beyond his or her partnership investment, and having no direct control over operations of the limited partnership.

Living Probate:
Most people typically think of “probate” as something that happens after you die. However, court proceedings can also occur while you are alive and is referred to as a “living probate.” A living probate can arise if you become mentally or physically disabled. A living probate is often referred to as either a “guardianship” or “conservatorship.” A guardian is someone appointed by the Court to look after the incapacitated person. A conservator is someone appointed by the Court to look after the assets of an incapacitated person.

Power of Attorney:
A document authorizing one person, the “agent,” to act on behalf of another person, the “principal.” Also, referred to as “Attorney-in-Fact.”

Principal:
A person who has appointed another person, his or her “agent,” to act on his or her behalf.

Probate:
The legal process that transfers legal title from the decedent to the appropriate recipient of the property. This process is necessary when someone dies with a will or no estate plan in place.

Successor Trustee:
Any person appointed to handle a trust after the death or disability of the trustor.

Survivor Trustor/Trustee:
If the trust was a joint trust and the death was the first one for the couple, the surviving spouse is known as the surviving trustor. If the surviving spouse continues in his or her role as manager of the trust, then her or she also acts as the surviving trustee. In some situations, a co-trustee is appointed to act with the surviving spouse, or a third party takes over as trustee after the death of the first spouse.

Trustee:
The person who manages assets owned by a trust under the terms of the trust.

Trustor:
The creator of a trust.

Trust Administration:
The process of following a trust’s instructions after the death of the grantor. For example, a trust may provide for funding of subtrusts.

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