I live in ABC State. My mother passed away recently and my sister has power of attorney. She went to close my mother's bank account and they advised her that she needs letters of testamentary or administraction. My mother did not leave a will. Do the letters still apply? All she owned was a 1996 Caravan and that has already been transferred. She has nothing to constitute an estate. She has one outstanding debt of about $1,300.00 that advises that she needs to provide estate papers so that they can make their claim. What do we do in regard to this matter?
Condolences on the loss of your mother. We cannot address state specific questions so we'll give you general answers. For state specific details you should consult with the Surrogate's court in the county where you mother resided and/or a probate/estate attorney practicing in your state. There are a number of different points to address in your question. Here are a few: POWER: A power of attorney becomes invalid on the moment of death. The only exception to this general rule may occur if it is used after death because no one knew. Had you sister acted prior to your mother's death to address financial matters she may have been able to resolve everything using the power. No longer. LETTERS TESTAMENTARY: They might be called different things in different states, but "Letters" are a formal document (usually with a raised seal) which the Surrogates' (Probate, Orphan or other court depending on your area) issue after admitting an estate for probate. "Letters" authorize the executor (personal administrator, etc.) to take actions on behalf of the estate, such as close a bank account of your mothers. The process usually requires the submission of the original will (your mom didn't have one, see below), a death certificate and completed court papers (these vary, but might include a listing of family, assets, etc.). INTESTACY: Your mother died without a will so state law will determine who will be in charge of her estate (administrator, etc.). State law will also govern who inherits her assets after payment of expenses. SMALL ESTATES: Some courts have special proceedings for small estates like your mothers to make the process easier and cheaper. You should inquire at the local Surrogate's court if they can advise you or help. DEBT: Your late mother's debt will have to be paid. Whoever is in charge of the estate should contact them. If there really are not sufficient assets to pay the debt (what about the car and bank account?) and it will take time to deal with the above issues, the creditor may be willing to compromise to resolve the matter.
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