Losing a loved one is never easy. While you struggle to cope with the emotional realities of the situation, the financial and logistical nature of the circumstances can make moving forward even more challenging. In fact, most people who suddenly and unexpectedly lose a loved one feel completely overwhelmed, and they don’t know where to turn for help.
If you’re in this position now, don’t worry. You can and will get through this. To try to give you some guidance on your next steps, we’ve developed the following checklist. Keep in mind that this is just informative and not intended to constitute legal advice, so if you have more detailed questions about what you should do in your circumstances, please consider reaching out to a legal professional for assistance.
- Notification: One of your first steps should simply be notifying family members. Don’t feel like you have to carry this burden on your own. Instead, think about having other family members pass the message along. That way news gets out more quickly and you don’t have relive the events repeatedly.
- Transportation: Your lost loved one will likely be transported from the mortuary to the funeral home where services will be held. So, just be sure to have that information on hand and coordinate with the hospital or mortuary where you’re loved one is being held.
- Make arrangements: In the days after your loved one’s passing, you’ll want to make final arrangements. Your loved one may have left instructions in his or her will, so you may want to look there first to determine your next steps.
- Consider daily tasks: Your loved one’s daily tasks have suddenly stopped, so you’ll want to make sure that those are taken care of. This may include caring for a pet and collecting mail.
- Locate estate planning documents: Your loved one’s estate planning documents are going to be key to how things move forward regarding disposition of assets and the payment of creditors. Once you locate these documents, you’ll want to coordinate with any named executors who can help you coordinate these efforts.
- Secondary contacts: You’ll want to make sure that you’re loved one’s benefits are stopped and that any services are discontinued. Therefore, you may want to contact the Social Security Administration, entities from which pension benefits are paid, and utility companies, including those that provide cable and internet services.
- Gather documents: To make the asset distribution and creditor payoff process easier, you’ll want to locate all documents that are pertinent to your loved one’s estate. This may include bank statements, deeds, mortgages, titles, insurance policies, tax returns, retirement account statements, trust documents, and unpaid bills.
- Plan for the future: This can be hard to do, but once you’ve found your loved one’s estate planning documents, gathered other relevant documents, and spoken with your loved one’s estate administrator (if one other than you was named), you can start figuring out how to proceed with estate distribution. Keep in mind that this may be a more complicated process than it seems, which is why you may want to discuss estate planning and probate matters with an attorney of your choosing.
Consider letting an attorney lift the burden from your shoulders
Grief can be overwhelming. And in the aftermath of your loved one’s passing, even the simplest of tasks can be difficult to accomplish, let alone dealing with creditors and asset distribution. But you don’t have to navigate this process alone. Instead, you can work closely with an attorney who can help guide you through this challenging time so that your loved one’s wishes can be realized, and you can focus on supporting your family. To learn more, please consider speaking with an attorney you can trust.