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A Checklist of What to Consider Upon a Loved One's Death

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When someone close to you dies, moving forward can be a difficult process for many reasons. It can be a particularly challenging time if you are tasked with gathering up necessary documents, finding the will, or handling any other administrative types of tasks to get his or her estate in order. Many people in this situation do not know where to begin, and this process may be made even more difficult since they are dealing with their own grief over the loss of their loved one.

Estate Planning in California

If you have questions or concerns regarding any aspect of estate planning in California, an experienced estate planning attorney can help you. The attorneys at Galanti and Copenhaver have many years of experience handling estate planning issues of all kinds, including litigation. Contact our office today to schedule a consultation to meet with us and discuss your legal needs. We are here to help.

Steps to Take When a Loved One Dies

The precise steps to take immediately after a loved one dies will, of course, depend on your relationship with them and any additional roles, such as whether or not you are the executor of their estate. Shortly after a loved one dies, you (or someone else) will need to look into whether he or she had burial plans already in place. If so, you can contact the funeral home and begin the process of setting up the funeral and/or a wake or other ceremony according to the wishes of the deceased.

If these plans are not already in place, you can check with other loved ones to find out if there is any documentation stating his or her wishes regarding a funeral or something else, like cremation. If the family proceeds with funeral services, the state of California has many licensed funeral homes that you can contact to find out how to move forward with that process.

Other things to take care of shortly after a loved one passes:

  • Notify all family and friends of the death of your loved one;

  • Depending on the circumstances, arrange for organ donation or in some cases, an autopsy;

  • Finalize funeral or other ceremonial plans.

Informing Official Persons and Agencies and Moving Forward with Estate-Related Issues

After funeral or other services have been set up and all necessary family and friends have been notified of your loved one's passing, and any other immediate and urgent issues have been addressed, there are other persons and agencies that must then be notified of the death. One of the first calls should be to the attorney who prepared the decedent's estate.

In addition to your loved one's attorney, the executor of his or her estate will also need to be notified. The executor will handle most of the estate-related tasks moving forward. They should already be aware of the duties that their role entails. Below you will find a list of other calls to make. These calls may be handled by the executor, so it is a good idea to speak with them to ensure that everyone is on the same page regarding the tasks to be completed and who will be responsible for what task.

Other calls that may need to be made shortly after a loved one passes:

  • Contact the Social Security Administration. The Social Security Administration will advise you on how to handle any benefit checks that were being paid and can assist you in returning checks that had been sent in error after the decedent's passing.

  • Contact the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (if your loved one was a veteran). They will be able to advise you regarding burial honors and possible financial assistance for funeral costs if applicable.

  • Utility companies

  • Credit card companies

  • Banks and other financial institutions

  • The local Post Office

  • Other creditors

Some of the phone calls above may be handled by the executor of the estate, which is why it is important to make sure you are all on the same page regarding tasks to be handled moving forward. Another task that will need to be done is an inventory of the home. Typically, the executor will oversee this process. If there is no executor and no will can be found, the estate case will generally go through probate. During that process, a judge will make estate-related decisions and will often appoint someone to take on the executor role.

In many cases, the inventory of the home can be a large project and may take a while. Depending on the terms of any estate plans your loved one had in place, there may also be a need to set up an estate sale for various items remaining on the property after the distribution of assets and valuable items has already concluded.

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