There is a lot to do when someone passes away. First, take a deep breath. It is going to be okay.
It is going to be okay
FEMA is offering funeral assistance in some cases where the decedent died of COVID. Here is a link to the information on the FEMA website: https://www.fema.gov/disasters/coronavirus/economic/funeral-assistance. FEMA will begin accepting applications on April 12, 2021.
I received a call the other day asking me for information about preparing and filing a will. I was glad to discuss what goes into preparing a will. However, at least since I have been practicing since the mid 1990s, probate courts in South Carolina do not accept wills for safekeeping while the testator or testatrix (the person who signed the will) is alive. A will is only filed after someone has passed away. The register of deeds (sometimes called register of mesne conveyance or RMC) will file a properly executed durable (financial) power of attorney, deed, or a host of other documents, but not a will. Neither living wills nor health care powers of attorney are required to be filed, either.
Probate court availability depends on the county that you are in. A good place to start is the county website of the court that you are trying to reach. Most of the courts in the Midlands of South Carolina have some staff working, but by and large courthouse access is extremely limited. The South Carolina Judicial website has some good information about court and courthouse availability. Click here for details. Stay safe everyone!
When someone dies, Social Security payments need to be stopped. Usually, the funeral home will take care of notifying the Social Security Administration (SSA), so check with your funeral director to make sure that is done. If for some reason you need to do it yourself, the Social Security Administration provides instructions here. It needs to be done right away because Social Security has rules as to when benefits need to be paid back, and it can sometimes cause an issue if benefits continue to be paid after death. Social Security benefits are paid a month behind, and a beneficiary needs to survive the entire month to be eligible to keep the payment for that month. Here is a good explanation from AARP. The SSA provides this link that details the next steps for the survivors – remember that there is a small death benefit to eligible recipients and it is always worth checking to see if your benefits can be increased.
I get asked frequently whether someone can name co-personal representatives in their will. (A personal representative is the same thing as an executor.) The answer is yes, in South Carolina, you can name co-personal representatives. If you are considering doing this, think about factors such as (1) how well the proposed co-personal representatives get along, (2) how trustworthy are both the proposed co-personal representatives, and (3) the advantages and disadvantages of having two people participate in the administration of the estate. There is no one size fits all answer, but legally, it can be done.
If you have any questions about estate planning or probate, feel free to give me a call at (803) 999-1256. I will be happy to do what I can to put your mind at ease.
What do you have to do after someone passes away who received Social Security benefits? From the Social Security Website:
Following the death of a Social Security recipient, the SSA will pay a lump-sum death benefit of $255 to: A spouse who was living with the deceased person at the time of death; or. A spouse or a child who, in the month of death, is eligible for a Social Security benefit based on the deceased person’s record.
You should give the funeral home the deceased person’s Social Security number if you want them to make the report. If you need to report a death or apply for benefits, call 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778). You can speak to a Social Security representative between 7 AM and 7 PM Monday through Friday.
More information can be found here at the SSA website.
Some clients would like to keep the original will as a memento and file a copy of it with the probate court instead. Unfortunately, if you have the original will, in South Carolina it needs to be filed, and the probate court keeps the original. If you ever need a copy, you can get a regular or certified copy from the probate court.
If you have any questions about the probate process, please give me a call at (803) 929-0096.
I recently came across this article from the California Probate Blog and it has some great tips about what to do after a loved one dies. Check it out here
The probate court can’t give you legal advice, but they can sometimes point you in the right direction. And, of course, you may want to contact an attorney with your questions. You may find it easier to let someone else handle the legal end of things.