This is a basic outline of the legal steps and steps that are not legal but have an impact on possible legal issues that you should take when a person dies. Unfortunately, many of these steps can be very important and you must take them at a very sad and emotional time.
1. Consider the emotional impact of the death on the surviving
spouse, children, and close relatives. Act accordingly.
2. If the decedent had dependant children, decide how to provide care for them. If the person left an incapacitated surviving spouse, do the same for the surviving spouse.
3. Decide what security the person’s home needs. At a minimum, you should cancel deliveries and credit cards and notify the post office to either forward or hold mail.
4. Make funeral arrangements. This may include contacting clergy, making mortuary and burial or cremation arrangements (resist overselling), organ donation if the person authorized it in a living will, and ordering death certificates, which you can arrange through the mortuary. Investigate whether the person had already made any funeral arrangements. KEEP ALL RECORDS OF FUNERAL AND OTHER EXPENSES.
5. Find the original Will and/or Living Trust. You must find the original.
6. Find life insurance policies and claim forms.
7. Investigate the following benefits and contact the appropriate claims personnel:
a. Social Security
b. Union death benefits
c. Veterans benefits (including Veterans Affairs benefits, Servicemembers and Veterans Group Life Insurance, Thrift Savings Plan, Survivor Benefit Plan, and Disabled Veterans Life Insurance - the monthly benefit statement from Defense Finance and Accounting Service will be helpful)
d. Veterans burial allowance
e. Accrued vacation pay
f. Employee death benefit
g. Final wages
h. IRA/401(k) account
i. Retirement plan death benefits
j. Deferred compensation
k. Medical reimbursements to help pay for hospital and doctor
l. Refunds on insurance, cancelled subscriptions or other items
m. Life insurance
n. Medical insurance
o. Bank, financial, and investment accounts
8. Find deeds to real estate.
9. Meet with CPA/accountant to prepare final tax returns and
establish tax basis in property.
10. Consult a probate lawyer. Do not assume that you must file a probate proceeding or that you do not have to file a probate proceeding.