Losing a loved one is a very difficult and emotional experience, made all the more trying by the many details that have to be handled in a small period of time. Below is a list of tasks that need to be accomplished after a death. This list is not all-inclusive as some individuals will have extenuating circumstances. However, this list will provide you with the information you need to move forward after a death.
Notify immediate family and close friends
Take some time to grieve and seek comfort with family and friends
Locate their important documents
Hopefully your loved one created a living trust, or at the least, a will. Also look for paperwork on life insurance policies, property deeds, account information...etc. If they had a PO Box or a safe deposit box, make certain to find the access information and keys.
Get multiple copies of the death certificate
At the city clerk's office, you can purchase multiple copies of the death certificate. Most funeral homes will order the death certificates for you if you tell them how many you will need. We recommend getting at least 10 copies. Financial institutions will not close or transfer accounts without a copy of the certificate, nor will insurance companies provide payment until they have received one. In fact, you will be surprised by how many government agencies, membership groups, unions, institutions and other entities will require a valid copy of the death certificate.
If the individual was receiving income from a pension plan, social security or other entities, you must notify them of the death without delay.
Make arrangements for funeral services
Hopefully your loved one informed you of their wishes regarding the disposal of their remains. Did they say they wish to be buried or cremated? Did they already have a plot of land and/or a funeral home selected to provide services? Use their wishes as guidelines, and get the expertise of a funeral director to assist you.
If the deceased was a veteran, they may be eligible for special burial service from the VA. Also, if the deceased veteran left behind a spouse, that spouse may be eligible for certain benefits through the VA.
Make sure you allow friends and family to help with the details - it will give you much needed assistance and provide them with an opportunity to take part in the process and receive closure.
Call MH for a free consultation
After things have calmed down a bit and you have a chance to spend some time with loved ones during this difficult time we highly recommend that you visit with one of our attorneys at MH for a free 1.5 hour consultation where we will discuss with your loved ones all of the steps that need to take place to finalize the estate of the deceased loved one.
Inventory all assets and attain valuations as necessary
Inventorying all of the assets of the deceased is an important step in determining where the assets will go (if not pre-determined in an estate plan), what can be sold to pay debts of the estate or the costs from the funeral services, and to prepare the estate for administration or probate. Any high value items such as property, jewelry or antiques should have current valuations done to help with the accurate division of property.
Estate administration or probate
Depending upon what documents your loved one did or did not prepare, the estate will either go through probate or need to be administered without having to go through probate. Without a properly created trust, the estate will very likely have to go through probate. We highly recommend meeting with an attorney for either of these scenarios. There is a lot of work involved in administering an estate and most people have a very difficult time navigating through the process. Probate is a court proceeding and can take anywhere from months to years to complete. We recommend hiring a competent probate attorney, it will save you a great deal of work and prevent prolonging the probate more than necessary.
This list incorporates the basic steps that must be taken after the death of a loved one, however there are always many small steps that will come up during the process. For example, if the deceased had pets, arrangements will need to be made for the care of those animals. Who will care for any dependents of the deceased? Most families choose to write an obituary to be featured in the local newspaper. If the deceased was part of a union, the family may be eligible for certain death benefits.
At Morris Hall we have helped thousands of clients to navigate through the difficulties that come after the passing of a loved one. We can help you with the administration or probate of the estate. Let us take the burden off your shoulders! Call us today at 888.222.1328 and schedule a free consultation.
About Morris Hall:
At Morris Hall, we have focused our legal practice on estate planning for over 40 years. Along with estate planning, our attorneys help clients and their families with matters of probate, trust administration, wills, powers of attorney, business planning, succession planning, legacy planning, charitable gifting and other important legal aspects. We also have divisions in financial, real estate and accounting to help you incorporate all of your planning together, insuring that everything works perfectly for your needs and situation. Our Arizona offices are located in Phoenix, Mesa, Scottsdale, Tucson, Prescott, Flagstaff and Arrowhead. Our New Mexico offices are located in Albuquerque, Las Cruces and Santa Fe. Contact us today at 888.222.1328 to schedule an appointment!