You have probably never sat down and thought about what steps you need to take after the death of a loved one. Consequently, if you find yourself in that position you may not know what to do. Although every experienced is unique, the estate planning attorneys at Nash Bean Ford & Brown, LLP put together a list of practical steps that typically need to be taken following the death of a loved one.
- Notify the hospital/authorities of organ donation. If your loved one was an organ donor, or you have the authority to make the decision, it is crucial to notify someone immediately.
- Arrange for handling of the body. If you know what funeral home you want to handle the disposition of the body, notify them immediately. If the decedent made his/her own funeral and burial plan, the terms of that plan must be followed. Look for a pre-paid funeral contract or for a funeral trust among the decedent’s estate planning documents. If a funeral trust was created, the person named as Trustee in that trust agreement is officially in charge of the arrangements.
- Notify close family. You undoubtedly know who you need to contact. If you are unable to speak to them yourself, make sure you designate someone else to make the calls.
- Secure major assets. Make sure major assets, such as the decedent’s home and vehicle are secured.
- Obtain several certified death certificates. You (or whoever is the Executor of the estate) will need to show proof of the decedent’s death to the funeral home, financial institutions, and a variety of other third parties.
- Consult with the funeral home. Even if the decedent did preplan his/her funeral, it is still important to meet with them to make sure the arrangements are clear, and everything is moving along as intended.
- Notify extended family, friends, and the public. You should now try and notify friends and family that do not already know. You may also wish to write an obituary and arrange for it to be published.
- Close accounts. Notify banks, credit card companies, and investment funds of the decedent’s death.
- Stop benefits. Contact the Social Security Administration, the Veterans Administration, and any other government agency from which the decedent received benefits.
- Look for estate planning documents. Search for a Last Will and Testament, trust agreement, life insurance policies, and any other estate planning documents. If you do not already know where the decedent kept documents such as these, check a home office, ask close family members, or contact the decedent’s attorney.
- Consult with a probate attorney. The probate process must be initiated in order to ensure that debts of the estate are paid, and the estate assets are passed down to the intended beneficiaries.
- Make a list of assets and debts. Not only will this help with the administration process, but there may be bills that you must continue paying, such as a mortgage payment.
- Cancel less important accounts. Contact the post office to handle the decedent’s mail. Cancel memberships (particularly anything on auto pay).
- Order a headstone. If you did not already do this, it can be done at this time.
- Shut down electronic accounts and social media. If you have access, or the decedent left a list of passwords, start shutting down online accounts. If you do not have the necessary information/access, you may need to wait until the probate process gets underway.
Contact an Estate Planning Attorney
For additional information, please download our FREE estate planning worksheet. If you have additional questions or concerns about what to do following the death of a loved one, contact an experienced estate planning attorney at Nash Bean Ford & Brown, LLP by calling 309-944-2188 to schedule your appointment today.