Nothing Beats Expert Advice When You Suffer a Loss

Coping with the loss of a loved one is never easy, period.  There’s just no avoiding a certain amount of emotional and psychological fall-out.

And the last thing you need when you’re emotionally exhausted is a crash course in estate law.  Unless you happen to be an attorney or CPA, all that legal and financial stuff can only exacerbate your pain and feelings of loss and sorrow.  Plus, when it involves a potential inheritance or significantly affects the welfare of family members, it takes on even scarier proportions.

A friend of mine shared this story about what happened when her dad passed away. She learned the hard way that you shouldn’t always follow the advice of those closest to the situation.

Before I share her story, she wanted me to be sure I inserted this important side note:

Tax Laws“If you think your loved one really didn’t have much of an, “estate,” and therefore you don’t need to worry about such things, let me respectfully tell you you’re wrong.  If your loved one owned anything of even modest value and / or owed anything to anyone, someone’s going to be on the hook to make sure things are transferred properly, debts addressed, titles cleared, etc.  On top of that, someone has to file a final personal income tax return for the deceased if they had gross income for the tax year of $600 – yes, just $600, or more. If that, “someone” is you, you’re going to need to know who to trust to provide accurate information.”

My friend’s dad was a smart businessman but had a great distrust of lawyers.  Her mom had assured everyone not to worry as their accountant and family friend of over 30 years had everything in hand.

Their family accountant was not just a CPA, he was the town’s City Treasurer for many years, a long-time Rotary buddy of her dad’s, and an, “estate planner” who handled the affairs of many people in town.  He was respected, a pillar of the community.  So of course they all believed he had everything under control.

However, once they started getting into his estate, the first glitch was discovering that the original attorney had passed away.  Getting referrals, interviewing and getting the family to agree on a new one took them almost the entire year’s grace period before having to file returns.

The new attorney reviewed the documents and began to question the way some things were done by the CPA over the years and especially after her dad’s death.  Gradually it became apparent that some things were just not handled in the most optimal way. It seems their “estate planner”/ CPA/ family friend, although he had the ‘best intentions’, was definitely not aware of some of the finer points of law.

The lesson my friend had to unfortunately learn the hard way, is to always, always go to a qualified expert.  There are CPAs who are estate planners; there are litigation attorneys who call themselves estate planners. Even tax attorneys will draw up your will and give estate planning advice.

But the bottom line is when a will or trust is involved, (and sometimes even when there isn’t), you may need both a qualified CPA and a qualified estate attorney.  She told me going through this process was really tough and the hardest part was the unnecessary grief and frustration.  When you lose someone, your emotions are raw and that is the worst time to deal with family issues regarding money.  It made the saddest time of her life worse, when all she and her family wanted to do was grieve her dad’s loss.

Shared by Madelyn Hammond

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