When a loved one dies, you may find yourself with the responsibility of taking care of their estate. The days following the death of your loved one will be busy. It is natural to feel overwhelmed by the process of putting your loved one’s affairs in order. Typically, the following list will need to be completed within a week of your loved one’s death.
10 Tasks After a Death
1. Secure the Will
You will need to obtain an original copy of the will as soon as you can. This is the first document you should be worried about. Look in safes, file cabinets and desk drawers. If you cannot locate the will, contact your loved one’s attorney and ask if they have a copy.
Once you have secured a copy of the will, you will need to take it to the county court house and have it recorded. Keep a copy for your records.
2. Obtain the Death Certificate
Obtain the death certificate and make several copies. You can obtain the certificate from the mortuary or funeral home. You will need copies of the death certificate to claim any Social Security benefits. You will also need to provide a copy to any insurance companies and financial institutions. The death certificate may be needed to cancel or transfer utilities.
3. Collect and Forward Mail
Collect any mail that is still in your loved one’s home. Go to the post office with a copy of the death certificate, and have your loved one’s mail forwarded to your home. As you get mail, call or write the companies and inform them of your loved one’s death. Request that mail stop being sent immediately.
4. Secure the Residence and Property
Visit the decedent’s home and make sure that it is secured. Notify next of kin, other relatives and heirs that you will be securing the residence. Before you lock up, walk through the home and secure any visible valuables like cash and jewelry. Provide keys or access codes to anyone you deem necessary.
Be sure to stop by the person’s residence several times during the week to collect mail. It will not be forwarded immediately and you do not want it to pile up, indicating that there is no one at home. Put lights on timers or leave them on. Do the same things to your loved one’s home that you would do to your own if you were leaving for an extended period of time.
5. Investigate Receivables and Death Benefits
When your loved one dies, you should investigate receivables and death benefits. Who are the beneficiaries? How will they be paid? Who do you have to contact? These are the questions that you will need answers to. If you are having trouble with this aspect of settling your loved one’s financial affairs, your estate attorney can assist you.
6. Notify Bank and Credit Card Companies
Upon the death of your loved one, you will want to notify their financial institution(s) and their credit card companies. Be prepared to provide a copy of the death certificate to each of these establishments. Cancel credit cards and speak to the bank representative about how to best handle savings and checking accounts.
Be forewarned that credit cards may not be canceled, at the discretion of the lending agency, until the account is paid in full. In most situations, the estate will take care of these final bills; you do not have to.
7. Notify the Employer
Notify your loved one’s employer as soon as possible. If your loved one’s death was imminent, the employer may have already made alternate arrangements with regards to your loved one’s job duties. If the death was sudden, however, the employer should absolutely be notified as soon as possible. They will need to make arrangements to have your loved one’s job duties fulfilled by someone else.
8. Notify Social Security
When a person dies, there is a law in place stating that Social Security must be notified. This does two things: Determines survivor eligibility regarding benefits, and stops any payments to beneficiaries. The funeral home will already have contacted the administration; you doing so is merely a formality. If Social Security payments are not stopped, it is your responsibility to return them.
9. Cancel Services
Contact any service provider that the decedent dealt with. This includes newspapers, utility companies, cellular phone service providers, cable providers, and others. Stop these services as you see fit. If your loved one’s home will be maintained or placed for sale, keeping basic utilities connected is in your best interest. The bills can be paid out of our loved one’s estate.
10. Identify Legal Heirs
Be prepared to identify the legal heirs of your loved one. This may include a spouse, biological children, adopted children, and anyone named as an heir in the decedent’s Last Will and Testament. If you are unaware of who constitutes the designation of legal heir, consult with your loved one’s attorney of record.
There is little doubt that these details will be the last thing that you want to deal with upon the death of a loved one. Do not feel as though you need to do these things on your own. You have family and friends around you who will be more than willing to help you do what needs to be done.
Aside from the things listed above, be sure to make arrangements for any pets that the decedent owned. You may choose to board these animals or care for them yourself. If your loved one stipulated how the animals would be cared for in the will, follow those instructions.
If, at any point, you are unaware of what steps you should follow, an attorney experienced in estate law can be of great assistance. If your loved one did not have an attorney, you can consult with one on your own. These days immediately following your loved one’s death will be trying; turn to those around you for support when you need it.
Updated: October 2, 2014