Coping with the death of a loved one can be a very painful time for anyone. In a perfect world, you’d be able to mourn your loss in peace. Unfortunately, we don’t live in a perfect world; when a loved one dies, there are a litany of personal and legal matters that must be attended to in a timely manner. The following are the most important steps you’ll need to take within weeks of a loved one’s death.
1. Report the death and request multiple certified copies of the death certificate
You won’t be able to do much else until you acquire a death certificate. Several of the agencies you’ll be contacting will request a copy to have on record. You’ll also want to acquire a letter of testament, which tells government and financial agencies that you have been named to handle the deceased’s affairs.
2. Arrange funeral (or cremation services) and write an obituary
Before speaking to a funeral director, find out if your loved one has pre-paid burial arrangements, especially if they’re a veteran. From there, you’ll arrange what type of service will be conducted, how the body will be prepared, and personally contact friends and family. It’s a good idea to appoint certain people to inform larger groups so as to keep your emotional turmoil to a minimum. Writing an obituary or death notice will also allow you to spread the word on a larger scale, but be aware that releasing too much personal information in an obituary or on social media platforms may lead to malicious attempts to steal the deceased’s identity.
3. Begin the probate process
Probate begins by checking whether your loved one has a will or trust in place. After taking the will to the county or city office, a court date will be set to name an executor to take care of all the deceased’s affairs. If no will is in place, this process can be a lot more complicated. It’s also a good idea to open a separate bank account to handle the deceased’s assets until the process comes to a close.
4. Contact authorities of the deceased assets
There are a lot of agencies you’ll need to contact to close out personal accounts, cancel memberships and end monthly billing. These may include: accountants, banks, life insurance agencies, pension agencies, utility companies, mortgage agencies, credit card companies, loan providers, creditors, unions, veteran’s affairs, the social security office and the post office. You will also want to find out what legal filings the state requires.
Above all else, being overwhelmed can easily lead to mistakes and cause liability issues to arise, so it’s always a good idea to contact a lawyer who specializes in wills, trusts and probate, even if it’s simply for a consultation. They’ll be able to save you time, money and help guide and support you in this arduous process.