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  • Writer's pictureNorthland Elder Law

What Should I Do After A Loved One Passes Away?

When a family member passes away, there are several steps that need to be taken in order to ensure that the grieving process is not complicated with unnecessary stress. In an ideal world, the estate planning was set up well ahead of time in a way that allows for minimal paperwork, but this is unfortunately not always the case. Some actions that need to be taken are time-sensitive and require an attorney that has experience dealing with estates.

Below we've outlined a comprehensive list of important steps to consider when a loved one passes.

Actions that need to be taken immediately upon one's death:

  • Determine whether your loved one was an organ donor. This can usually be found on the back of their driver's license or government issued ID.

  • Determine if the decedent left instructions regarding their funeral or celebration of life. Did they already pay for part or all of their services? If not, you will need to choose a funeral home.

  • Inform family of their passing.

  • Inform close friends of their passing.

  • If your loved one was a veteran, contact your local VA office to apply for benefits.

  • Write your loved one’s obituary.

  • Determine the future care of any pets your loved one left behind.

  • Decide what will happen to your loved one’s residence in the short term. Someone might decide to briefly reside at the location and get their belongings in order.

  • Forward your loved one’s mail and e-mail if possible.

  • Dispose of any perishable items your loved one left behind at their residence.

Actions that need to be taken within the first few weeks of their passing:

  • Locate your loved one’s estate planning documents.

  • Obtain duplicates of your loved one’s death certificate and any other important documentation you think may come in handy.

  • Determine what should be done with items not mentioned in their will. For instance, furniture, appliances, tools, etc. It may be helpful to contact an estate sale company if their home is filled with belongings that no one in the family wants or needs.

  • Contact your loved one's financial advisors and inform them of their passing. The financial advisor will likely have worked with your loved one's attorneys already and will be able to assist you in contacting them if you haven't already.

  • Find your loved one’s stored user names and passwords to digital accounts.

  • Contact your loved one's bank to determine whether or not they left behind a safe deposit box (this isn't as common as it used to be but many people still utilize safe deposit boxes for important documents and family heirlooms, especially if they moved into a long-term care facility prior to passing.

  • If your loved one was employed at the time of their passing, contact the human resources department at their employer to determine if they had any death benefits.

  • Cancel accounts that your loved one left behind including credit cards, home services like the internet, gym or golf club memberships, social media accounts.

  • Report the death to credit reporting agencies.

  • Contact the Social Security Administration to assess whether a death benefit exists.

  • Report your loved one’s death to car, home, and health insurance carriers.

Taking The Necessary Estate Planning Steps

In addition to all of the items mentioned above, you will likely also need to take some additional steps regarding your loved one’s estate plans.

  • Meeting with your deceased loved one’s attorney or attorneys to review the terms of their will, trust, and any other estate plans.

  • If probate is required and you are appointed as the decedents personal representative, pursue probate administration with your loved one’s lawyer’s assistance.

  • If probate is not required but a trust exists, initiate trust administration with the assistance of your loved one’s attorney.

At Northland Elder Law, we are committed to helping seniors and associated families with their estate planning and probate administration needs.

Whether you'd like to begin the estate planning process, or you have recently had a loved one pass and don't know where to begin, we can assist you. We have helped Missourians in their estate planning needs for over 30 years and have extensive experience in helping families and individuals protect their assets. Contact us today to get started.


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