What to Do When a Loved One Passes Away

Dealing with the death of a loved one is difficult enough. Handling the financial matters that come with it can be overwhelming and disorienting. The following is a list of initial steps to take when a loved one passes away. If the steps seem too much for you to handle in this challenging time, consider asking for the help of friends, family and a probate attorney.

Funeral and Burial
The funeral and burial or cremation arrangements must be made. It would be wise to review the deceased’s records to see whether any prepaid funeral arrangements were made. You may wish to prepare an obituary as well.

The Residence
The residence of the deceased will need to be assessed and secured. Basic things like making arrangements for pets, removing perishables, and collecting all important financial and estate planning documentation should be done.

Important Documents
Important documents include but are not limited to a Last Will and Testament, Trust, bank account statements, insurance policies, investment account statements, a recent mortgage statement, and the last several years of tax returns.

The Mail
Arrangements should be made for mail to be routinely collected by a neighbor or loved one until an executor or administrator is appointed, at which time mail can be redirected via the US postal service. Monitoring the mail is a helpful way to learn about creditor and financial accounts belonging to the deceased.

Notice to Income Sources
Notice of the death should be given to any sources of income, including Social Security and the Veteran’s Administration.

Death Certificates
Copies of the death certificate should to be ordered. Often the funeral home will do this for you. The number of death certificates that you will need depends on the amount of assets the deceased owned. It is a good rule of thumb to order at least three. Additional copies can be ordered in the future if needed.

Cancel Services
Cancel unneeded services like health insurance, car insurance, cable and television services, magazine subscriptions, gym memberships, etc. If the deceased had real estate, you will want to keep the home owner’s insurance in place until the home is sold or transferred. Similarly, you will want the essential utilities like electric, water and gas to remain on to keep the home in condition for transfer or sale. Credit cards companies should also be notified and the cards cancelled.

Assess Assets
The assets that were in the name of the deceased or the deceased’s trust at time of death must be reviewed. Assets fall into one of two categories, probate assets and non-probate assets.

A probate asset is any property that was in the sole name of the deceased upon death without any beneficiary designations. Examples of probate assets are an individual checking account without a pay on death (POD) designation, real estate in an individual’s name without a Transfer on Death Affidavit, a retirement account without a beneficiary designation, household goods like furniture and jewelry.

A non-probate asset is any property that passed to a named beneficiary upon the deceased’s death. Examples of non-probate assets are any property titled or transferred into a trust, retirement accounts with beneficiary designations, joint bank accounts or individual bank accounts with a pay on death (POD) designation, real estate with a survivorship deed or a Transfer on Death Affidavit.

Once the nature of the property has been determined, contact a Cleveland probate lawyer to discuss next steps. Whether or not you believe you need an attorney, it is wise to contact a Cleveland probate lawyer and make an appointment for a consultation. An attorney experienced in probate matters is in the best position to determine what further steps need to be made and advise you accordingly.