Winding Up Legal Affairs After a Death

By , Caring.com senior editor
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Quick summary

If you're the trustee of a parent's or other family member's estate, it will fall to you to distribute his assets and wrap up his affairs. Depending on the size of the estate, this can be a lengthy process that can take anywhere from six months to two years and involves a lot of work. But think of it as an indication of the person's trust in you: He knew you would handle his estate the way he desired.

When to begin

The process doesn't have to start immediately following a death, says Jennifer H. Friedman, a trusts and estates attorney in Menlo Park, California. Give yourself time to grieve and be with family. "You don't need to run from the funeral home to the attorney's office," says Friedman. "This is an extremely emotional time. Usually, people are overwhelmed when they walk in my office. Hopefully, they'll be less overwhelmed when they leave."

If possible, you'll want to see a trusts and estates attorney within a month of the death. Ideally, this will be the same attorney who drafted the will and established his revocable living trust. "The sooner you get started, the sooner it's over," Friedman says. And she finds that some people like having tasks to do -- it helps them cope with their loss.