It is not uncommon for people to have questions about what to do when a loved one dies. When a loved one dies, they may leave behind many personal and legal details that family members must closeout. You must plan their funeral, close bank accounts, pay any remaining bills, and much more. This can be a long stressful process that may take many months or years to complete.
Settling your loved one’s estate can be difficult due to the amount of paperwork involved. You will more than likely need help from various professionals, like a Probate Attorney, to administer all of the details. If you are the Personal Representative of the estate, also known as the Executor, you will be responsible for settling most aspects of the estate, including distributing your loved one’s money and property.
A checklist may be beneficial to your family to ensure everything is taken care of, ranging from breaking the news to friends and family to opening probate. Below is a list of tasks of what to do when a loved one dies.
What To Do When A Loved One Dies - Immediately
Get A Legal Pronouncement Of Death
When a loved one dies, the first thing to do is to get a legal pronouncement of death. A legal pronouncement of death is the official declaration of death by a medical professional, such as a doctor or hospice nurse. This pronouncement is the first and most crucial step to getting a Certificate of Death. Without the Certificate of Death, you cannot begin planning a funeral or handle other legal or personal affairs.
If your loved one died in a hospital or nursing facility with a doctor present, you do not need to do anything because the staff will take care of this. However, if the person dies at home, you need to call 911 soon after they pass, and medical professionals will transport the person to a hospital where they may be pronounced dead and moved to a funeral home. A hospice nurse may also pronounce death if your loved one died at home under hospice care.
Tell Friends And Family
Telling friends and family of a loved one’s passing can be difficult. This may be made easier by sending out a group text or mass email. Individual phone calls may also be helpful. You should also notify their coworkers and members of their social group and ask them to spread the word about the passing. It may be beneficial to post about the death on social media.
Find Out About Existing Funeral And Burial Plans
When a loved one dies, you should look for burial or funeral instructions in the deceased’s paperwork. If you cannot find any paperwork, a family meeting may be beneficial to discuss what the funeral should look like and any other details about the passing. In addition, a family meeting may be critical to discuss what the person would have wanted, what the family can afford, and what the family would like.
What To Do When A Loved One Dies - Within a Few Days of Death
Make Funeral, Burial Or Cremation Arrangements
Before making any funeral and burial plans, you should check the deceased’s paperwork to determine if they had a prepaid burial plan. If they did not, you should begin by choosing a funeral home and decide where the service will be. Once you make these decisions, you must decide where the ashes or body will be interred and what type of tombstone or urn to order. It is best to research funeral costs before making any decisions.
If the deceased was a member of the military, contact the Veterans Administration to check for burial benefits or see if they will assist with conducting the funeral. If the decedent was part of a fraternal or religious group, they might also help with funeral arrangements.
Gather friends and family to assist with tasks such as pallbearers, writing eulogies, planning the funeral, writing thank you notes, and arranging the post-funeral gathering. It may be helpful to find a friend or relative who is good at writing to write the obituary.
Secure The Property When A Loved One Dies
When a loved one dies, securing property is essential, especially if there are valuable items. You should lock up the home as well as vehicles. Ask a friend or relative to keep up with the property while the deceased’s affairs are in the process of being sorted out. Someone should take out the trash, clean the refrigerator, and continue to water the plants and get the mail. Secure any valuable property or personal items you do not want to see vanish.
Provide For Pets
When a loved one dies, it is important to keep in mind any pets. You should make sure the deceased’s pets have a caretaker until they have found a new permanent home. It is typically best to have the pet stay with a familiar friend or relative who likes animals. If no one is available to care for the pet, a kennel may also be an option.
Go to the Post Office when a loved one dies and have the mail forwarded from the deceased’s address to your own or to someone else who is assisting you with the process. It is not a good idea to leave mail piling up at the home because it is an indication that the property is empty. Having the mail forwarded is also beneficial because it provides a lot of information about what accounts, subscriptions, and bills the deceased had that may need to be paid or canceled.
When A Loved One Dies, Make Sure You Notify Notify Their Employer
When a loved one dies, you should contact your loved one’s employer to see if they had any benefits or any paychecks that may be due to them. You will also want to confirm if the employer offered a company insurance policy.
What To Do When A Loved One Dies - Two Weeks After Death
Secure Certified Copies Of Death Certificates
When a loved one dies, at a minimum you should order ten copies of the Certificate of Death. You will need the certificate to close out a majority of the decedent’s affairs, such as closing bank accounts, filing insurance claims, registering the death with government agencies, and much more. The funeral home can assist with getting copies of the Certificate of Death. You may also order them from the vital records department in the city or county the person passed away in.
When A Loved One Dies, Locate The Will And The Executor
Locating the Will and Executor is a significant step when a loved one dies. It’s important to know where all of their money, property, and other assets are and where they will go. In an ideal situation, the decedent told you where their Will is located. If you did not have the chance to speak with them, you should look in the part of their home where they kept important documents. People usually name a Personal Representative in their Will. This person is involved in a majority of the remaining steps. If your loved one did not have a Will, the estate will be distributed according to Michigan law, and a Probate Court judge will name a Personal Representative.
Meet With A Probate Attorney
You are not required to hire an attorney to settle an estate, but the process is much easier if you do. If the estate is worth more than $24,000, it is recommended that you hire a Probate Attorney because the process may become complicated, costly, and time-consuming if you do not. The attorney can assist with navigating the probate process and distributing assets. If you need additional assistance, such as a CPA for tax preparation, a Probate Attorney typically has many professional contacts they can put you in touch with.
Take The Will To Probate
Probate is the process of administering a Will and opening the decedent’s estate. Probate is opened in the county where the decedent lived at their time of death. Probate is to make sure all debts are paid when a loved one dies, and the remainder of the estate is distributed to the beneficiaries.
Make An Inventory Of All Assets When A Loved One Dies
In Michigan, you are required to inventory all of the decedent’s assets, including bank accounts, vehicles, personal property, homes, and much more when a loved one dies. The Inventory will eventually need to be filed with the probate court.
Track Down Assets
To make an inventory of the assets, you must track them all down. This task can be complicated if the estate is large. Some Michigan Probate Lawyers can assist with this, but you should first look through the deceased’s tax returns, emails, mail, bank accounts, deeds, and titles.
Make A List Of Bills
Create a list of all bills the decedent has to ensure everything is paid while the estate is being settled.
Cancel Outstanding Services
Cancel any subscriptions or services that are no longer needed when a loved one dies. This can include cable, streaming services, internet, and cellphone bills.
Notify The Following When A Loved One Dies
The Social Security Administration
If your loved one was receiving Social Security from the government, you will need to stop the checks. In some cases, surviving family members may receive death benefits from Social Security. The funeral home will report the death to the Social Security Administration in most cases. If they do not, it is up to the decedent’s survivors to tell the Social Security Administration. You may do so by contacting your local Social Security office. Once they are notified, they will also inform Medicaid.
Life Insurance Companies
To make a claim on a life insurance policy, you will need the policy number and the Certificate of Death.
Banks And Financial Institutions
It may be easier to manage your loved one’s accounts if you have a list of accounts and their passwords. If the decedent didn’t give you any information, you will need to provide a Certificate of Death to the bank. You may also need to open probate depending on the amount in the bank account.
You should determine if there are any beneficiaries listed on any accounts. The beneficiary can usually gain access to the account or benefit by filling out a form and providing the Certificate of Death. If there was not a beneficiary listed, you might need to open probate to access the account.
Sending the Certificate of Death to major credit agencies, such as Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion, may be beneficial to avoid identity theft.
The Final Things Tasks To Do When A Loved On Dies
Cancel Driver's License When A Loved One Dies
When a loved one dies, cancel their driver’s license at your local Secretary of State office to remove their name and records from the department. This is typically done by providing a copy of the Certificate of Death.
Close Credit Card Accounts
Contact the customer service department of the credit card company and tell them you would like to close the deceased’s account on their behalf. You will need to provide them with a copy of the Certificate of Death to do so. In addition, you should keep records of all the accounts you close and inform the Personal Representative of any balances on the account.
Terminate Insurance Policies
Contact the deceased’s insurance company and end coverage on their auto, health, and home insurance policies. You should also ask that they return any unused premium.
Delete or Memorialize Social Media Accounts After A Loved One Dies
You may delete any of the deceased’s social media accounts or keep them as a memorial page after a loved one dies. To create a memorial page, you must contact the company and provide a copy of your ID and the Certificate of Death.
Close Email Accounts
To prevent fraud and identity theft, you should close your loved one’s email account. You may need a copy of the Certificate of Death to close it and verification that you are next of kin.
Summary Of What To Do When A Loved One Dies
Losing a loved one is one of the most difficult situations that a family will have to endure.
We hope that the What To Do When A Loved One Dies Checklist will help you throughout the process.
Unfortunately, many families will have to go through Probate after they lay their loved one to rest.
If you need to go through the Michigan Probate Process, it is recommended that you work with an experienced Michigan Probate Lawyer.
Probate in Michigan can be complicated, long, and confusing.
An attorney can help you quickly and easily navigate the process so that your loved one’s money and property can be distributed to their heirs in the manner in which they intended.
At Rochester Law Center, our compassionate and dedicated Michigan Probate Lawyers are experienced in all matters of Probate Administration and serve every county in the state of Michigan.
We make Probate fast, easy, and stress free by acting as your guide through the complicated paperwork and legal proceedings you’ll undoubtedly be facing throughout the Michigan probate process.
We understand the intricacies and nuances involved with Probating an Estate and can help you navigate every step of the way while keeping costs as low as possible.
Call us today at (248) 613-0007 for a free case evaluation.
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