After someone passes away, there are several steps that their loved one are tasked with. These steps include proving that their will is valid, identifying their property and having it appraised, paying off any debts and taxes, and distributing the property according to the will. Together, these steps comprise the process of probate.
With a matter as sensitive as a loved one’s passing, many individuals hire an attorney to help them through the probate process. Having an attorney on your side during this difficult time can give you peace of mind on all the legal details while allowing you to properly grieve for the death of your loved one.
Immediate Steps to Take
In 2012, Consumer Reports published an article with a checklist of what to do when a loved one dies. With 13 key steps spread out over the time span of “immediately,” “within a few days after death,” and “up to 10 days after death,” it’s no wonder that the legal process can take a huge toll on anyone who tries to do it alone. Those steps include:
Get a legal pronouncement of death, either from a doctor, hospice nurse, or paramedic.
Make arrangements for transportation of the body.
Notify the person’s doctor of their passing.
Make arrangements for the care of the person’s dependents and pets.
Call the person’s employer to inform them of the passing. Ask about life their life insurance policy and get information about any benefits or pay due.
Begin planning the funeral. Decide whether the person will be buried or cremated (first search their documents to see if there is a prepaid plan). Prepare an obituary.
If the person was in the military, belonged to a fraternal group, or was in a religious group, contact that organization to ask about burial benefits or funeral services.
Ask someone to watch over the person’s home until arrangements can be made. This includes collecting the mail, answering the phone, watering the plants, cleaning, and throwing out expired food. You can also request that the police periodically check the person's house if it remains vacant.
Steps to Take Within 10 Days
Once the steps above have been attended to, you have about a week and a half to take care of steps like contacting important agencies and working through the person’s will. These steps include:
Obtain multiple copies of the death certificate. These will come in handy when dealing with government agencies, insurance companies, and financial institutions.
Deliver the will to the county or city office to have it approved for probate.
Contact a will and trust attorney to learn how to transfer assets.
Contact the bank, life insurance agent, Social Security, pension services, utility companies, postal services, the investment advisor, and the accountant or tax preparer.
Probate Attorney in Plano, Texas
Thomas H. Keen is a lifelong Texan with extensive litigation experience dealing with a variety of civil issues. He has represented local and national banks, insurance companies, and private and public corporations in the state of Texas for more than 30 years. Thomas holds the highest peer ratings from Martindale-Hubbell in areas including quality and ethics. Whether you’re seeking legal representation concerning real estate, business transactions, probate, or wills and trusts, your case will receive Thomas’ personal attention.