The death of a loved one is a difficult time. Some people are overwhelmed by the thought of settling an estate. Below is a checklist of things to do:
Take Care of Yourself
If you are the surviving spouse, or another close family member, and the person’s death has come suddenly, the most important thing: take care of yourself first. Shock and trauma can take unexpected forms. Most actions that will need to be taken do not have to be done immediately and, if you act too quickly out of worry or anxiety, you may do the wrong things and make bad decisions.
Contact a family member or friend who can spend time with you, either by phone or in person, during the next few hours or days, until you are emotionally stable and can pursue the other items on this checklist. This person may also be able to handle phone calls and write stuff down until a time you can better deal with it. Avoid entering contracts for anything while you are still in an emotional state, and avoid spending larger sums or lending money.
Commemorating your loved one’s life should be a top priority. Ask your closest friends or relatives to help you make arrangements to ease your stress. Search the person’s documents to find out whether there was a prepaid burial plan. Notify a funeral director and clergy, and make an appointment to discuss funeral arrangements. Ask a friend or family member to go with you to the mortuary. Prepare an obituary.
Obtain Death Certificates
Ask the funeral director to order several certified copies of the death certificate. In Florida there are two kinds of death certificates: a short form that does not contain the cause of death and a long form that does, so order some of both. Short forms are the preferred death certificates that are recorded in the public records in Florida. The long form with the cause of death is usually needed for life insurance policies.
Notify Government Agencies and Others
Notify the Social Security Administration to stop payments and ask about survivor’s benefits. If the deceased was a veteran, notify the Veterans Affairs as well. If he or she received a pension, notify their employer.
Even if you’re not in charge of an estate for a deceased relative, you may have a role in supporting that person in the settlement of it. Gather the following documents:
- Last Will and Testament
- Life insurance policies
- Latest account statements
- IRA or 401(k) statements
- Latest credit card statements
- Latest tax return
All these documents will help you find out how assets are titled and assess outstanding debts.
After you’ve worked through the above checklist, seek help from a probate and trust administration attorney. Finances will likely not be your top concern when you lose a loved one, but there are financial considerations that you will need to address. Working with knowledgeable advisors can help you navigate this difficult time.
This article is for information only and is not intended to provide legal advice. Has someone close to you passed away? Call us at 813-852-6500 to schedule a free consultation with a probate attorney.