When a family member passes, there are a number of things that should be done, some require immediate attention and others can be taken care of in the weeks and months following the death. The following list is a suggestion of things you should consider doing following the death and suggested timing of doing so:

Within first 24-48 hours:

  1. Determine whether any of decedent’s property needs to be safeguarded, such as a motor vehicle, vacant house, etc.
  2. Arrange for the care of minor children, if any.
  3. Arrange for the care of pets.
  4. Ensure that proper funeral arrangements have been made in accordance with the decedent’s wishes.

Within two-three weeks:

  1. Locate the original Last Will and Testament and read it.
  2. Collect important records such a titles, deeds and life insurance policies.
  3. Make an appointment with an attorney to discuss estate to determine if probate is necessary.
  4. Notify life insurance company(ies) of the death and request claim(s) forms.
  5. If mortgage insurance on home exists, notify insurance company of death.
  6. Go through the mail and determine if any bills must be paid immediately.
  7. Contact creditors who are demanding immediate payment and notify creditor of death.
  8. Notify credit card companies of death and cancel credit cards on which decedent was the only signer.
  9. Obtain bill for last illness from hospital and providers. Make sure bills have been filed with the insurance company.
  10. Order death certificates from the funeral home. When estimating the number, order one for each life insurance policy, annuity, or retirement account, one for the probate court, and at least one for you use.
  11. Contact Post Office to make any necessary changes in delivery of mail. Mail should be held or forwarded to someone if there will be no one at the residence.
  12. Notify the Credit Agencies of the death so that credit is frozen.
    • Transunion 1-877-322-8228
    • Experian 888-experian
    • Equifax 866-640-2273

Within one to two months:

  1. Bring original Will, financial documents, balances, and death certificates to meeting with attorney and file a Petition to Probate the estate if necessary.
  2. Notify Social Security of the death, and any other organization paying on retirement or paying an annuity upon death.
  3. Gain access to and inventory any safe deposit box.
  4. Obtain the account balance on mortgages, loans, checking and savings accounts as of the date of death.
  5. Notify CPA, accountant or bookkeeper of the death.
  6. Gather and organize financial documents:
    • Bank accounts owned by decedent.
    • Mutual funds owned by decedent.
    • Brokerage accounts owned by decedent.
    • Certificates of Deposit in decedent’s name.
    • Stock Certificates registered in decedent’s name.
    • Any promissory notes under which decedent was entitled to receive payment.
    • Titles to Motor Vehicles and/or Mobile Homes that are listed in decedent’s name.
    • Deeds to real property owned by decedent.
    • Any appraisals of jewelry or other valuable personal property owned by decedent.

Within two to six months:

  1. Retitle automobiles held in joint tenancy.
  2. For accounts held in joint tenancy, contact institution to change records to reflect ownership only by the surviving joint tenant.
  3. After payment of debts, taxes, etc., distribute the remaining assets per the decedent’s Last Will and Testament

Many times Probate can be avoided by putting a plan in place during lifetime that addresses these and other circumstances. We work with individuals and families to develop plans to avoid Probate (using revocable living trusts, beneficiary designations, and other methods) or to Probate their loved one’s estates. Each individual’s needs are unique and this article only provides a brief, general introduction to when a Probate is necessary. For more detailed information and to discuss your specific case, call us today at (678)781-9230 or email us at sgrissom@grissomlawfirm.com to schedule an appointment.

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