Hi all. I wish I didn’t have reason to ask this. My sister’s husband–of only 3.5 years–died unexpectedly on Sunday. We still don’t know what happened; he wasn’t home at the time, and the autopsy/medical examination is, for some reason, taking what feels like an awfully long time to come back to us with info. (We can’t even schedule the funeral before we know when my brother-in-law will be released to the funeral home.)
Likelihood is that it was a heart attack. He was 48, in good health, but had a history of a heart attack 20 years ago. Nothing since, though, and as I said he took excellent care of himself. But you never know.
Anyway. My sister is devastated, after waiting so long to find a remarkable man to love her the way she deserves, and for her to care for equally… only to lose him way too soon. I’m helping her emotionally, as much as I can, but looking ahead I know there are other things that will need to be dealt with. Worse, there are things I know we don’t know that will also need to be dealt with, but we may forget it.
I’ll call him Mike. Mike died without a will. He ran his own business out of their apartment, had his own bank accounts (both he and my sister had separate accounts), probably had a savings account somewhere. Since he had to go out to meet clients a lot–he worked helping small businesses set up point-of-sale systems–he had very tight security on his various laptop/computer/phone devices (in case they were stolen). He changed the passwords often, which is good computer security hygiene but difficult now, because my sister, let’s call her Carla, doesn’t know the latest passwords.
Obviously we’re going to have to get an accountant (Mike didn’t have one) and probably an attorney who deals with estate planning. One thing we’re all fairly sure of is that Mike did not have debts, or if he did, they were negligible. He was adamant about paying off credit cards ASAP, and paid various bills via cash or check.
In addition to the Point-of-sale business, which was active income, he also had somewhat passive income working as a credit card payment processor (or setting up payment processors… not quite sure how to explain this). He set the various online stores up to allow them to accept credit cards, and in return he received X% of sales.
Whew. okay, the difficulties I see are:
Somehow breaking in/figuring out how to get into his computers/devices
Getting in touch with his active point-of-sale clients, who’ll need to find someone else to service and support their systems. There’s also informing the company for which Mike was a vendor; he sold a few different POS systems–yeah I know POS is a terrible acronym, but that’s what they’re called–so there’s more than one that needs to be informed.
Figuring out where his bank accounts are. This one seems problematic because as I understand it, since he died intestate and Carla wasn’t on these accounts, she isn’t entitled to get access to the accounts without going through probate.
How to deal with the passive income? If these stores made an agreement w/Mike to pay him this percentage of their sales, is there any way Carla can continue to receive this income if she takes over Mike’s company (if that’s even possible)? Or does Mike’s passing immediately make those agreements void?
What about money he’s currently owed? When the checks arrive they’ll be made out to his business name. This may be a really stupid question, but this is money that’s still counted toward Mike’s estate, right? The clients don’t get out of paying what’s owed just because he died, do they?
What about his credit cards? Do they need to be cancelled immediately? I know he has some automatic payments through them (e.g. for his webhost), so arrangements like that need to be dealt with.
To answer a question you might ask: no, we don’t think he had life insurance. (I know, I know, this is basically a huge cautionary tale for married couples to get their plans in order.) But he may have a retirement fund somewhere. Hopefully going through his papers–and his computer system if it’s possible, as I know he scanned a lot of his old documents rather than maintaining the paper versions–will help us identify such things.
More info: They rented their apartment and luckily Carla’s name is on the lease, so there’s no mortgage or home insurance to be dealt with.
Okay I know this is a lot. But I’m trying to get the bases covered so I can be prepared, and help my dear sweet beloved sister through this. Offhand, for those who’ve been through this–or if you’re an estate attorney or a financial planner (though I know you’re not OUR attorney or financial planner, and it’s not to be considered advice, etc. etc.)–do you have ideas on some of the above questions, and also, any other areas/details I’ve missed and shouldn’t forget about?
Sigh. I can’t believe this is happening. Mike wasn’t just my sister’s husband, he became my friend too. Just such a kind, generous, funny, irreverent, intellectually curious, impassioned man. He would have gotten along with the SDMB well, though probably end up in the Pit a couple of times for getting into arguments in GD.
Thanks in advance if you can help out.