What to do when a family member dies (and what not to do!)

What to do when a family member dies (and what not to do!)

Legal Offices

What to do when a family member dies

Nothing is harder than losing someone you love. Getting through each day can feel overwhelming and figuring out the numerous tasks that must be completed adds even more to your stress. We’ve compiled a checklist to help, and we’re available to assist with legal processes and answer any questions you have.

CLICK HERE for a printer-friendly version of our checklist.

Notify doctors, clergy or religious representatives, family, friends, and business associates as appropriate (delegate to family members if appropriate)
Notify a hospital for anatomical gifts (organ or tissue donation)
Notify funeral home and make funeral/burial arrangements including: if decedent was a veteran, take military papers, determine if a memorial is to be suggested in lieu of flowers, and the place and manner of internment (delegate to family members if appropriate)
Assemble personal data for death certificates and check against vital records such as birth certificates, social security cards, etc.
Draft obituary and send to newspaper including date, time, and location of funeral or memorial service
Obtain death certificates
Secure tangible property (inventory them and store safely)
Secure real property (consider changing locks if property is unoccupied)
Keep utilities such as gas, water, and electricity on
Locate any original estate planning documents (will and trust, if applicable)
Gather personal records, including checkbooks, statements, stocks certificates, copies of income tax returns and begin preparation of asset and liability lists
Record all income and expenses for the estate or trust and keep a time log for yourself (This will be important if you receive compensation for your work or if there is an estate tax return required.)
Check that there is insurance on real and tangible property (including vehicles) and keep it in place
Cancel credit cards and ask for any death benefits
Cancel newspaper and magazine subscriptions and ask for refunds if applicable
Forward mail to the appropriate person
Notify social security and veterans administrations (if applicable) of death and check for benefits (any social security paid in month of death will be pulled back by SSA)
Check for safe deposit box and inventory contents in the presence of a bank officer
Contact anyone owing money to decedent and arrange for continued collection
For questions regarding children, pets, or anything not included on this list, please contact one of our attorneys for advice. The care and well-being of children and pets is priority.

What NOT to do:

If you’re appointed Personal Representative or successor trustee, you will have certain legal obligations and are required to complete specific actions. If those required actions are not completed or are done incorrectly, then you may be personally liable even if the mistakes resulted from actions taken in good faith. You may be personally liable to the IRS or other creditors or even be required to go to court to answer to the devisees of the Will or trust beneficiaries for any mistakes made. That’s why it’s so important to retain legal counsel to settle an estate or administer a trust.

We’re here to help. Contact us at (480) 360-1776 for guidance with the next steps.

 Thompson Reuters Super Lawyer