Grieving the demise of a loved one can be one of the most difficult and emotional experiences a person can go through. The feelings of sadness, grief, and loss can be overwhelming and make it hard to carry on with routine life.
However, in addition to dealing with associated trauma and emotions, certain practical matters must be tackled after a loved one passes away. These may include settling the deceased’s financial and legal affairs to ensure their wishes are carried out and their assets are protected.
Failing to take care of these matters can cause unnecessary stress and complications for the family and loved ones left behind.
What to Do When Someone Dies?
Dealing with the affairs of a loved one who has passed away can be a heavy burden. This task has many distinct aspects, including personal, financial, and legal.
Managing these matters can be tedious, time-consuming, and emotionally tiring, especially when you are grieving. So, it’s best to seek guidance from legal professionals who can help you manage the death of your loved one.
To ease your stress, check out this detailed step-by-step probate guide to navigate the process and understand all the legal requirements efficiently.
Now, let’s examine the legal matters in detail.
1. Obtaining a Death Certificate
It’s a legal document that verifies the death of an individual. It records the deceased person’s name, date of birth, date of death, place of death, and other related information.
A death certificate is necessary for handling legal matters such as settling the estate, transferring property, and making funeral arrangements. It also serves as proof of death and can be used to cancel accounts, notify government agencies, and make insurance claims.
The process for obtaining a death certificate varies depending on the state and the circumstances of the death. Generally, the death certificate is issued by the local health department or the funeral home.
2. Notifying All Necessary Parties
Once the death certificate is obtained, the next step is to contact all the relevant parties for legal and practical reasons. It may include family members, friends, legal representatives, government agencies, financial institutions, and other parties affected by the passing of your loved one.
Notifying all the necessary parties allows for the proper distribution of assets and debts and the closure of accounts and memberships.
Lastly, notify certain government agencies such as the Department of Motor Vehicles, the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Social Security Administration, the Post Office, and the Passport Office for:
3. Securing Assets
It’s important to secure all the assets of your loved one after death. This step ensures that all the assets and other valuables are not lost or stolen. Steps for securing assets:
The executor of the Will or the next of kin is typically responsible for securing assets. The responsibility may fall to a close friend or family member if there is no Will or next of kin.
4. Canceling Accounts and Memberships
Canceling accounts and memberships are important to prevent further charges or financial obligations from accruing after the death of a loved one.
For this, you need to gather a list of all the accounts and memberships the deceased had. These may include credit cards, bank accounts, utility accounts, phone accounts, internet accounts, gym memberships, and club memberships. The next step is to contact the relevant companies or organizations and inform them about the death for the successful closure of all accounts and memberships.
5. Paying Final Bills and Debts
After your loved one’s demise, it is important to pay all outstanding bills and debts to prevent the accumulation of late fees, penalties, or interest. Failure to pay the final bills and debts can negatively impact the deceased’s credit score and their estate’s creditworthiness.
Firstly, identify the outstanding bills and debts by reviewing the deceased’s mail and financial records or contacting creditors directly. Once identified, they should be prioritized and paid in order of importance.
The estate executor or the administrator appointed by the court will be responsible for paying final bills and debts. However, in some cases, the deceased’s assets may not cover all the debts, and the family or estate may have to negotiate with creditors or seek guidance from a financial advisor.
6. Funeral and Burial Planning
Planning a funeral and burial is crucial since it allows loved ones to say goodbye.
The first step in planning a funeral and burial is to determine the preferences to honor the deceased’s final wishes. Start by reviewing the Will or talking to their loved ones. The next step is researching funeral homes and cemeteries and arranging for the funeral and burial. Likewise, choose a casket or urn, select a burial plot or niche, and plan the funeral service. You may also need to decide on a wake, visitation, or memorial service.
The immediate family or the estate executor is typically responsible for funeral and burial planning if the Will is present.
7. Handling the Will and Estate
A Will is a document that legally sets forth the distribution of an individual’s property and possessions after their passing. It also specifies the individual appointed as executor, responsible for implementing the directives outlined in the Will. The assets would be distributed according to state laws if the deceased did not have a Will.
Some steps to take when settling an estate include:
Dealing with legal matters after a loved one’s passing can be a difficult and emotional process. However, the process can become smoother by understanding the key steps that need to be taken and being prepared with the necessary documents.
It’s important to seek professional help to get through legal matters successfully and ensure that all necessary steps are taken properly.