When a loved one dies, the emotions you experience can paralyze you, causing you to neglect to handle some of the most basic tasks. That can complicate matters significantly.
Here’s a checklist of the steps you need to take following the passing of a loved one:
- Get a declaration of death—If you have hospice care, the hospice nurse should be able to officially declare the person to be deceased. They will often help you arrange the transportation of the body, too. If you don’t have hospice care and your loved one dies at home, you’ll have to call 911. You’ll want a “do not resuscitate” order, though, or EMTs will initiate emergency medical procedures and may even attempt to revive the person.
- Contact the funeral home—Assuming that no autopsy is needed, the funeral home will arrange to pick up the body.
- Make arrangements for a memorial service and burial or cremation—By law, the funeral home must advise you when you call them of any costs that will be incurred to pick up the body. In addition, before you are charged any additional fees (for cremation, burial or other services), the funeral home must advise you of all your options. If there was a prepaid burial plan, that can be honored. However, you cannot be held to any “plan” for burial entered into by the deceased that was not paid for.
- Get multiple copies of the death certificate—You will need copies of the death certificate for many different purposes, from life insurance payouts to notifications to creditors. The funeral home will often arrange to get the certified copies for you, but may charge a fee to do so.
- Contact a probate attorney—It’s never too early to contact a probate attorney. Though the primary purpose in hiring an estate lawyer is to ensure the orderly distribution of the estate, that attorney may also help you navigate any legal issues that arise with the funeral home, with creditors or others. Your attorney may also help you locate insurance policies or identify other sources for defraying the costs of cremation or burial.
- Initiate the probate process—Your lawyer will help you do this. You’ll need to bring a copy of the will to the appropriate county/city office to have it accepted for probate, and you’ll need to have the executor appointed.
- Notify all necessary parties—In addition to friends and family, you’ll also want to notify creditors, pension or retirement funds, Social Security and V.A. offices, investment advisors, accountants and life insurance providers.
At the Law Office of Bonnie Lawston, we focus our estate administration practice on estates subject to probate in Nassau County and Suffolk County on Long Island. Contact our office online or call us at 631-425-7299 to set up a free initial consultation.