What To Do After a Loved One Dies
No one really talks about what to do when a loved one dies. It's just not common, even though the death of a loved one is very common-- we will all have a loved one who dies at some point in our lives. When a person you are close to dies, your grief – not to mention your to-do list, including tasks ranging from planning the funeral, meeting with a trust administration or probate lawyer – can be quite overwhelming, especially if you have been named an executor or successor trustee of an estate or trust.
Below is a quick checklist of crucial details that will make handling the legal affairs of a deceased person easier. I know it can be difficult, but some of these things have a deadline, so make sure that you reach out sooner rather than later:
- Secure the deceased's personal property (vehicle, home, business, etc.).
- Notify the post office.
- If the deceased wrote an ethical will, share that with the appropriate parties in a venue set aside for the occasion. You may even want to print it and make copies for some individuals.
- Get copies of the death certificate. You'll need them for some upcoming tasks.
- Notify the Social Security office.
- Notify all banks of the death of the account holder to reduce fraud.
- Take care of any Medicare details that need attention.
- Contact the deceased's employer to find out about benefits dispensation.
- Cancel your loved one's driver's license, passport, voter's registration, and club memberships.
- Close out email and social media accounts, and shut down websites no longer needed. Depending on circumstances, to take these steps, you may need to wait until you've “formally” taken over the estate, but you can often learn the procedures and be ready to take action.
- Contact your tax preparer.
- Stop health insurance and notify relevant insurance companies. Terminate any policies no longer necessary. You may need to wait to actually cancel the policies until after you've “formally” taken over the estate, but you can often get the necessary paperwork started before that time.
- Get ready to meet with a qualified probate and trust administration attorney. Depending on the circumstances, a probate may be necessary. Even if a probate is not needed, there is work that needs to be done to administer the trust properly.
Here's what you need to gather:
- The deceased's will and trust. If the original of the deceased's will or trust can't be located, contact us as soon as possible and bring any copies you do have.
- A list of the deceased's bills and debts. It's often easier to bring the statements or the actual credit cards into the office rather than try to write out a list, but do whatever is easiest for you.
- A list of the deceased's financial advisors, insurance agent, tax professional, and other professional advisors.
- A list of the deceased's surviving family members, including their contact information when available. Even if they're not named in the trust, the attorney will need to know about everyone in the family.
You may be thinking about handling all the paperwork yourself. It's a tempting thought – why not keep things as simple as possible? – but a “DIY” approach to this process might cost you and your family dearly. Read on to understand why.
Some Key Takeaways
- Seek professional counsel to avoid even the appearance of impropriety when handling an estate.
- Bear in mind that errors of omission and accident can be costly – even if your intent was good. An executor who makes distributions from an estate too soon can get into serious trouble, for instance. An executor's personal assets can wind up in jeopardy if his or her actions cause an estate to become insolvent.
- Even if you're well organized and knowledgeable about probate and estate law, it's surprisingly hard to anticipate what can go wrong. There are many ways to end up in hot water when you're handling the estate or trust of a loved one.
We're here to help you steer clear of the obstacles and free you to focus on yourself and your family during this difficult time. Contact us for assistance. We can help you manage estate and trust related concerns as well as point you towards other useful resources.