This article touches on the 5 steps to take after a loved one dies. Losing a loved one is never easy, regardless of when that time comes. If you’ve been nominated, or appointed, as the executor or trustee of your loved one’s estate, then you are not only faced with the grief that comes from your loss, but also the burden of a hefty to-do list.
Depending on the legal documents in place, that may include funeral arrangements, coordination of family members for the visitation, and ultimately the probate (legal term that essentially means taking care of the will through the legal system) and/or trust administration of the estate.
While you should always take care of yourself first, you will also need to start working diligently on the legal matters that you are now in charge of. Here are 5 steps to take after a loved one dies.
Secure Personal Property:
First, secure the decedent’s vehicles, home, business interests, personal belongings, etc.. Don’t start passing out personal effects or belongings until you have located and read the will or trust. If you haven’t already done so, now is a great time to talk with a probate lawyer.
Second, locate important documents and hold on to them. Wills, Trusts, Powers of Attorney, Life Insurance contracts, annuity contracts, investment accounts, and all incoming bills. These documents will come very handy as you begin to process the decedent’s estate. It can take a lot of work, and time, to replace these documents. Some, cannot be replaced.
Third, notify financial advisor(s), banks, Social Security, past employers (for benefits accounts if any), and insurance companies of your loved one’s death. You may not be able to cancel the insurance on no longer needed accounts until you’ve formally taken over the estate as an executor or trustee, but it is important to start collecting this information and their internal forms to do so.
Fourth, as soon as practical, obtain copies of the death certificate. As you begin administering the estate, you will need the death certificate to prove the passing of your loved one. Keep in mind, some companies may accept a copy, however, government agencies will want a certified copy. As such, we recommend ordering at least 7-10 copies, just in case.
Meet with a probate lawyer:
Fifth, hire an experienced probate attorney. They will help you navigate the murky waters of probate and trust administration. Your lawyer will want to see (1) the decedent’s Will and/or Trust; (2) a list of their bills and debts; (3) the names and contact information for their financial advisors, insurance agents, tax professional, and other advisors; (4) all the decedent’s surviving family members, their contact information, and likely more if needed by the court.
The loss of a loved one is a stressful time. Engaging an experienced probate attorney will help bring peace of mind and direction to the many unknown tasks you will be faced as the executor and/or trustee of your loved one’s estate. This quick “5 steps to take after a loved one dies” guide is merely the beginning. Give us a call if we can help.