Losing a family member can be an extremely emotional, stressful, and confusing time. Among the many things that you may be faced with is how to handle different aspects of the estate. If you are unaware of what assets or arrangements are in place, you may need to do some detective work. Here are a few tips on finding estate planning documents for deceased family members.
Documents to Look For
As you begin your search, there are several different types of information that will be helpful. Your primary objective is to find a formal estate plan as that would normally include several different types of documents (such as a will or trust) with detailed information. Other documents that can be helpful are:
- Asset Statements (i.e. Bank and Investment Accounts)
- Debt Statements (i.e. Loans and Credit Cards)
- Insurance Policies
Where to Search
Check the Home
The first place to start finding estate planning documents for deceased family members in their home. Look through any paperwork that you can find. Pay particularly close attention to anything that looks like legal, financial or insurance paperwork. Don’t forget to check the mail, as that can often provide a wealth of information. If your family member used technology, look through cell phones and computers for digital files as well.
Look for Safety Deposit Boxes
Most people store important documents, like estate plans, in a safe and secure place. This may include a safety deposit box. If you’re not sure whether one exists, start with the bank at which your family member held accounts. Paperwork found in the home might suggest other possible locations for finding estate planning documents for deceased family members.
Contact the Attorney
If you come across a business card or any correspondence from attorneys, be sure to contact them. If a law firm prepared estate planning documents for your family member, then they likely have a copy of that plan on file. Attorneys also often know quite a bit about an individual during the planning process and may offer some insight into other matters related to your family member.
Other Ways of Finding Estate Planning Documents
If you’re having difficulty locating any documentation or are unable to access certain accounts, then you may want to enlist the help of an attorney. Attorneys can assist with legally obtaining information from other parties or with the probate process. Although finding estate planning documents for deceased family members may be difficult, with some help from experienced professionals, you may gain a better perspective of your family member’s estate and what must be done to settle it.