When someone you love passes, you experience many different types of emotions, including sadness, fear, anger and guilt. These feelings can be overwhelming and devastating, and the last thing you want to think about are the legalities that follow. However, there are certain things that you must take care of while dealing with death.
1. Inform other family members and your loved one’s attorney.
You’ll need to inform your loved one’s family and friends and your loved one’s attorney. They may be able to tell you if there were any “final instructions” as to how your family member wanted their arrangements carried out. For instance, your loved one may have wished to be cremated, may want their organs donated, etc. Your loved one’s attorney can also inform you as to whether a will or trust existed, which details how the deceased wanted their assets distributed and to whom. They can also tell you who, if anyone, should act as the designated agent for after-death issues.
2. Make funeral and burial arrangement and have a death certificate issued.
Next, you’ll need to make funeral and burial arrangements, and you can order certified copies of the death certificate from the funeral director or hospice center. In most instances, the death certificate will be obtained from the Department of Health in the county where your loved one passed. You can then work on canceling services (mail, cable, phone, internet), contacting the Social Security Administration so death or survivor benefits can be issued, and applying for veteran and employee pension benefits.
3. Gather important documents.
Finally, you’ll need to figure out whether there is a will or trust. You’ll also need to see if there are any safe deposit boxes, property tax bills, insurance policies, annuities, bank accounts, promissory notes, vehicle titles, real estate property deeds, mortgage papers, stock certificates, tax returns, and other similar documents. If any are found, you should give these items to the executor or trustee of the estate. You’ll then work closely with them as well as your loved one’s attorney who can assist with the probate process. If there is no will, you’ll have to follow Texas state law, as the person died intestate.
Losing a loved one is extremely difficult so please be patient with yourself as you go through the grieving process. Hopefully, you now have a better understanding of the documents you need to obtain and what to do next. For additional information on the probate process, or to receive legal advice, please contact the experienced and empathetic attorneys at Ibekwe Law, PLLC, who will do their best to help you and your family members through this difficult period.