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Modern Estate Planning Blog

Elder Law & Special Needs Planning

Working with a Sacramento County Probate Lawyer to Find a Loved One’s Assets

October 9, 2015

Probate lawyers in Sacramento County are charged with helping their clients take estates through the probate process. Those who have lost loved ones and are now dealing with the courts usually feel completely out of their element. Whether by choice or necessity, these individuals become the executor of the estate. A probate lawyer helps to educate them and make their jobs less complicated through a combination of knowledge of probate law and experience working with many other Sacramento County families over the years.

An important, and often fairly difficult, step in the probate process is getting an accounting of the deceased’s assets. The executor also needs to track down any debts owed by the deceased and money owed to him or her. If there isn’t a clear estate plan in place with these types of lists already compiled, a Sacramento County probate lawyer will probably direct the executor to start a search with the county where the deceased lived. This can give access to titles, deeds, and even judgments against the individual.

Another source of information is the deceased’s mail. Throughout the first month or so after the death, the executor can watch the mail for bills in order to account for any debts owed by their loved one. Probate lawyers in Sacramento County will tell you, though, that the process can be very slow moving. For example, the executor will want to continue to monitor the deceased’s mail for up to a year, as evidence of insurance policies, dividends, and other assets may only come to light when annual reports or tax documentation is sent out once a year.

Taking a look at the individual’s checkbook or bank account records and tax returns can also provide important clues regarding assets and debts. For example, if the deceased was depositing a specific amount of money each month, it could be an indication that he or she has some form of income, whether it’s a job (which could have a retirement plan) or rental property (that needs to be included in the estate) or even a personal loan made to a third party that is being repaid in installments.

Finally, the executor should also take a look through the deceased’s personal address book. Names of lawyers, insurance agents, and bankers/financial advisors should definitely be noted to be contacted. As these various assets are uncovered, the probate lawyer will assist the executor in how to create an accurate accounting and will also be of considerable help in submitting the documentation necessary to be in compliance with probate law in California.

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Everything was so thoroughly explained and well documented that we never left her office with unanswered questions or felt as though we were forced into decisions on topics which we didn't fully understand. Her entire approach is a refreshing and welcome change from estate planning as usual.

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