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“Do I Need a Lawyer to Help Settle Up the Estate of a Deceased Family Member Who Had Very Little Property?”

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By Jeff Wagoner
W M Law President
We often have initial consultations with people who are faced with wrapped up the estate of a loved one who recently passed away, but that person really didn’t have much property.  Here’s an example:  Uncle Joe never married and had no children.  He passed away last week.  He rented an apartment (with 6 months remaining on the lease), drove a car worth $10,000 with a $6,000 loan on it, had a checking account with $1,000 and a savings account with $250 in them, had a pet dog, worked a part time job, drew Social Security of $1,100 per month, had some furniture, clothing, household goods, a couple of TVs and other inexpensive electronics and an old motorcycle that didn’t run.  Oh, and he also has $12,000 in credit card debt.  The family is looking to you to “just take care of everything.”  You are, after all, “the responsible one.”  But, what do you do and where do you start?
First off, you know you need some help – you can’t just expect the bank to give you the money from the accounts and what are you going to do about the titles to the car and the motorcycle?  Also, there’s a loan on the car – so the car lender wants its monthly payment.  The landlord wants to know who’s going to pay the rent, at least until the apartment gets cleaned out and turned back over to the landlord.  What about Social Security – how to do you notify them?  Can you keep his last Social Security check to pay for the costs of wrapping up the estate?  Then, there’s the family members who want Uncle Joe’s TV or collection of neon beer signs or the old motorcycle “because Uncle Joe said I could have it when he passed away.”  The credit card collectors will start calling the minute the first payment goes past due, and they may file a lawsuit even.  And don’t forget about the dog.
If you’re not careful, you could find yourself being held liable for mishandling these assets.  Or you could alienate your family members.  And there are a thousand other things you’re now worried about.  The good news is that WM Law is “Here to Help”.  That’s our motto.  We know how to deal with all of these issues.  Sometimes, it takes a little ingenuity.  Other times, you need to have a lawyer to direct creditors or family members to for an explanation.  We will work with you to handle all of these matters in the quickest, easiest and most cost efficient manner possible.  If you find yourself facing this situation, just pick up the phone, make an appointment for a free consultation and we’ll take it from there.

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