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Death of a Loved One - Part II


Last month, I posted a brief overview of the steps to take after a loved one has died. I tried to be as sensitive as possible and not go into too much detail. After all, who reads long posts. Well, I received some comments that led to this more detailed post. Of course, this is not all-encompassing, and not every circumstance is the same, but this guidance is generally appropriate for most deaths of a loved one.


As estate planning attorneys, we are here to help you when your family member or loved one dies. It is perfectly understandable if you are simply too overwhelmed to call us during the first couple of weeks after your loved one passes away. But it is important to keep in mind that there are several practical and legal considerations that the person named (or will serve as) as the personal administrator (executor) of the estate or trustee of the trust should address in the initial weeks following the death, prior to the administration of the estate or trust. During this stressful and emotional period, it is easy to forget about certain tasks which may lead to problems if left undone, as well as important legal considerations you must heed. Here is a list of some important initial steps:

Checklist of Initial Responsibilities

  • Make burial arrangements. If some time is likely to pass before burial, for example, if there will be a delay prior to a special ceremony and burial in a veteran’s cemetery, make arrangements with your funeral home to store your loved one’s remains until the service.

  • Obtain ten original certified death certificates. After someone passes away, their death should be registered with the local or state vital records office, which can then issue official death certificates. A state-licensed funeral director or coroner typically prepares and files the death certificate with the state. A death certificate is often required to claim life insurance benefits, close bank accounts, transfer titles, and take care of other matters connected to your loved one’s estate.

  • Ascertain the immediate needs of beneficiaries and expenses that must soon be paid. Determine which of your loved one’s accounts contains cash that can be accessed for the