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When a loved one dies, the family is faced with a sometimes overwhelming responsibility of managing that person’s affairs.  There are many things to attend to, and that often adds more stress to an already difficult time.  It is important to ask for help and delegate to other family members.  While not all-inclusive, here are the top ten things to do after someone dies:

      1. Get A Notebook
        It might sound unconventional, but before doing anything you should get a notebook. Record the date and time of every phone conversation, email or postal communication. If you do something, write it down.  Be sure to include the full name of the person you speak with, his/her title and the phone number extension. This is a stressful time, often charged with various emotions, and will become quite hectic at times.  If you record everything you do, you’ll be able to reference the people involved with a given matter as well as the progress of the many different aspects to managing the affairs of the decedent.
      2. Notify Close Family and Friends
        Don’t forget to ask capable family members for help. You don’t need to do this alone.
      3. Get Several copies of the Death Certificate
        You will need an official Death Certificate for a variety of legal matters. This is a document that will be issued by the State, but usually, the hospital, nursing home or funeral director will take care of this for you. You may need a Death Certificate for each separate asset that your Love One owned (e.g., one to give to the bank, investment broker, life insurance company, etc.), so be sure to order as many as you may need. 
      4. Look for your Love One’s Estate Planning Documents
        Be sure to look for any instructions your loved one may have left regarding his/her final arrangements. This can be a Will, Trust, Durable Power of Attorney, Health Care Power of Attorney, Health Care Directive or “Letter of Instruction”. Often these documents can be found wherever your loved one keeps other important papers (safe deposit box, home lock box, file cabinet, etc.)
      5. Make Funeral and Service Arrangements
        Again, this is an area other family members can assist in doing. Be sure to see if there are any prepaid arrangements.
      6. Arrange for the Care Of Your Loved One’s Dependents and Pets (If Any)
        In addition to arrangements for your loved one’s dependents, an area often overlooked is the arrangement of care for any of your loved one’s pets.
      7. Secure Your Loved One’s Home & Valuable Possessions
        Unfortunately criminals target homes of people who have passed. It is important to notify the police department of the vacant home as well as request an extra patrol during the funeral. You may want to consider removing any valuables from a vacant home or installing a security system.
      1. Call Your Loved One’s Insurance Company
        You will need to call your loved one’s insurance company and notify them of his/her passing. You also want to ask if any changes need to be made to your loved one’s automobile insurance, homeowners’ insurance, renters’ insurance, disability insurance, umbrella insurance, etc. Since the owner has passed, a different type of policy or rider may be needed.  Be sure not to leave real estate or vehicles uninsured.
      2. Make Arrangements for Mail
        You will need to make arrangements for receiving your loved one’s mail or put in a forwarding address notice with the post office so the mail comes to you.
      3. Schedule A Meeting with An Estate Planning Attorney
        You will want to meet with an experienced estate planning attorney to learn the many other steps you will need to take in managing your loved one’s estate and affairs. Call our office to learn the next steps and ensure nothing is left to chance.

Estate planning and probate attorney Christopher P. Cox has more than 30 years of experience and has helped countless numbers of people with all aspects of estate planning, probate and trust administration. A free consultation is available and provides a great opportunity to learn how the law applies to your specific situation.

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