When a loved ones passes away, it can be very difficult to think of anything other than the grief you feel as a result of your loss. It may, however, be necessary for you to do so because there are a number of practical and legal steps that must follow a death. In a heightened emotional state it can be very easy to overlook important tasks that need to be completed. With that in mind, the Port St. Lucie probate attorneys at Kulas & Crawford explain some of the most common steps that must be taken following the death of a loved one.
Steps to Take Immediately
- Notify the Hospital/Authorities of Organ Donation. If your loved one was an organ donor, 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.
Steps to Take within a Few Days
- 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.
- Meet 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, public. You should now try and notify friends and family that don’t already know. You may also with to write an obituary and arrange for it to be published.
- Close accounts. Notify banks, credit card companies, and investment funds, other accounts of the decedent’s death and ask to close the accounts.
- Stop benefits. Contact the Social Security Administration, the Veterans Administration, and any other government agency from which the decedent received benefits. Let them know that the benefits should cease.
- 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.
Steps to Take within Two Weeks
- 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 probate 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 the Port St. Lucie Probate Attorneys
To learn more, please join us for an upcoming FREE seminar. If you recently experienced the death of a loved one, and you have questions regarding the probate of the estate, please contact the experienced Port St. Lucie probate attorneys at Kulas & Crawford by calling (772) 398-0720 to schedule a consultation.