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I Recently Lost a Parent, Where Do I Start with Their Estate?

At Norton Health Law, P.C., our compassionate legal team understands that the loss of a parent is one of the most difficult things any of us will ever experience. Although people need adequate time to properly grieve, the various estate and probate matters that must be handled by the surviving family can be complicated and overwhelming, especially if the deceased did not have a comprehensive estate plan in place. Below, we explain which important matters need to be considered to settle the estate of a deceased parent.

Managing & Settling the Estate

The “estate” consists of all assets, debts, and other issues left behind by the person who passed away. Settling the estate involves disposing of the decedent’s assets, paying their debts, and addressing many other legal issues. For example, if the decedent had minor children, then the matter of who is legally responsible for caring for the children must be addressed. It is important to note that only particular people have authority to wrap up, or “administer,” the decedent’s estate, such as those named as executor in the decedent’s will or the named trustee of the decedent’s trust. It gets even more complicated when the decedent did not prepare either of these documents. In that case, the court with jurisdiction over the estate will need to qualify and appoint an administrator to wrap up your parent’s affairs.


Probate is a legal process that involves court supervision and approval of the estate and assets. Except in limited circumstances in which the decedent prepared a well-designed estate plan, the Probate process must be initiated before anyone starts selling, transferring, or using property belonging to the estate. While some people believe they don’t need to probate the estate because their loved one did not have many assets or substantial wealth, this can be a costly error, particularly if a creditor or the IRS attempts to recover their claim against the estate.

Properly administering the estate is crucial, which is why you should consult with a knowledgeable probate lawyer following the death of a parent. A lawyer can review the estate to determine whether probate is necessary, and if so, how to initiate and complete the probate process while reducing conflicts or disagreements between creditors, beneficiaries, and the decedent’s family members.

Locate the Will

If your parent had an estate plan, especially a will, then it’s important to locate those documents, as they are essential to the probate process. The will needs to be submitted to the probate court to open a new estate file. If your parent had an estate planning lawyer, it’s a good idea to check with them first to locate the original will. Some people also keep the original copy of their will in a safe or a safe deposit box at their bank.

Secure the Estate Property

Protect and do not distribute any of the decedent’s property until the appropriate person is qualified to administer the property according to the law and the decedent’s estate plan.

Schedule a Consultation with a Probate Attorney

Our legal team at Norton Health Law, P.C. is here to make sure you don’t have to handle the burden of probate on your own. We have years of experience helping clients of all backgrounds with all aspects of estate planning, estate administration and probate, and we will gladly use our extensive legal resources to help you efficiently resolve your legal issues.

To request a free case consultation with Norton Health Law, P.C., please call us today at (434) 978-3100.

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