5 Steps to take following the death of a loved one
- Make decisions about the handling of the body.
If your loved one was an organ donor, or you have the authority to make the decisions, it is crucial to notify the hospital or authorities immediately. You also need to 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 a burial plan or had a funeral trust, you may find it 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 handling the arrangements.
- Locate and/or obtain important legal documents.
Look for important estate planning documents, such as Last Will and Testament, trust agreements, and/or life insurance policies. Furthermore, you should obtain several certified death certificates. You will need to show proof of the decedent’s death to the funeral home, financial institutions, and a variety of other third parties during the administration of the decedent’s trust or estate. In Texas you can obtain a certified death certificate through the funeral home shortly after the death, or through the Texas Department of State Health Services.
- Make funeral arrangements.
Even if the decedent did plan his/her funeral, it is still important to meet with the funeral home to make sure the arrangements are clear, and everything is moving along as intended. You also need to notify extended family, friends, and the public. You may also wish to write an obituary and arrange for it to be published, as well as order a headstone for the decedent’s burial plot.
- Close accounts and secure assets.
Make sure major assets, such as the decedent’s home and vehicle are secured. Notify banks, credit card companies, investment funds, and other accounts of the decedent’s death and ask to close the accounts. You should monitor monthly benefits by contacting the Social Security Administration, the Veteran’s Administration, and any other government agency form which the decedent received benefits to let them know the benefits should cease. If you have access, or the decedent left a list of passwords, start shutting down the decedent’s online accounts. If you do not have the necessary information/access, you may need to wait until the probate process gets underway.
- Consult with a probate attorney to begin the probate of an estate.
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, during the administration.