Saturday, September 10, 2011

10 Steps to Take After the Death of a Loved One

By:  Susan M. Graham, Certified Elder Law Attorney

This checklist includes important steps to help manage the estate of someone who has died.

1.  Follow the specific funeral and burial instructions left by the decedent.  Contact your local funeral home or mortuary for assistance in making or following through with any prearranged funeral plan.

2.  Arrange for the care of any persons who were dependent on the decedent, such as minor or disabled children, an elderly spouse or the decedent's elderly relatives.

3.  Arrange for the care of any pets of the decedent.

4.  Secure the residence.  You may want to have some trusted friend stay at the house.  Change the locks.

5.  Arrange to receive several copies of the death certificate - ten is not too many in most cases.

6.  Keep track of your time.  Get receipts for all out-of-pocket expenses you pay related to the estate administration so you can be reimbursed.

7.  Notify the decedent's friends, family members and work associates of the death.

8.  Call the attorney who set up the estate plan to make an appointment and learn how to administer the decedent's estate.  The attorney can tell you who is legally responsible under a Last Will and Testament, Trust, or even if no documents were prepared.  Locate the original Last Will and Tesatment or Trust to take to the attorney if those documents exist.  It is important to talk with an attorney prior to making any decisions relating to the administration of the estate.  Sometimes the wrong decision, taken hastily, can be costly.

9.  Do not distribute any personal property items such as rings, guns, china and other household things until you speak to an attorney.  If you distribute such items and you did not have the legal authority to do so, you may be personally liable to others.

10.  Update your own estate plan to be certain you and your family are protected.  It is important that a surviving spouse make changes now that their spouse has died.  In most situations, it will be necessary to prepare a new financial power of attorney, new health power of attorney and new Last Will and Testament or Trust to reflect any changes to your plan.

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