When a person dies he or she may leave all kinds of property behind with the living. Those properties may pass to new owners automatically, such as when land is owned as joint tenants with rights of survivorship, or between a husband and wife as tenants by the entireties. It may be bank accounts which are likewise owned with joint tenants, or perhaps the bank accounts are “payable on death” to someone. There may be insurance contracts payable to specific persons, or which may be payable to trusts or which may yet even lack any beneficiary designation at all. There may be IRA accounts or other retirement accounts which require paperwork forms that are handled by the custodian, or there may be questions about those accounts. People may own a share in a business or have interests in trusts or even other pending estates. A person may have an interest in a lawsuit, or the occasion or cause of death may give rise to certain rights to sue under state law. There may be property owned one way or another inside the state where the deceased resided, or in other states, or even in foreign jurisdictions.
The entire process of getting the property of a deceased into the proper hands may be generally referred to as “estates” practice. For simple estate matters perhaps a lawyer is not needed but for matters of any complexity or significant values then a lawyer can and should be hired to oversee and coordinate the entire process, even if at first blush there may not seem to be a need. A good estates lawyer is the quarterback that can run the estate ball all the way down the field to the goal line- getting the property of the deceased into the right hands.
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