Estate planning lawyers help their clients create estate plans, meaning they often deal with questions about mortality, life, and death. Because of this, a lot of clients come to an estate planning attorney wanting to know what they can do after a family member or loved one has died.
Even though estate planning is often about making choices in preparation of death, there are practical steps you can take if you are confronted with the death of someone close to you. Many of these practical steps are not those specifically addressed by any estate planning tool you might create, but they can help you deal with the situation when it occurs.
Receiving notice that a family member has died always comes as a shock, even if you have been prepared for it. Whether it’s a family member who dies after a prolonged illness, or a loved one who dies after sudden accident or emergency, being prepared to deal with the practical realities will be a great help. The kinds of preparations you can take include making a checklist to have ready if and when you receive a death notice. This checklist should include important steps for you to take and allow you to have a tangible roadmap as you deal with the situation.
Make the Call
If you receive word of a family member’s death, you will probably have to call other people to tell them the bad news is well. Making a list of who you need to call can be a great benefit in this situation.
Your list should include the names of close family members, clergy, professional advisors, coworkers, and anyone else you think needs to be notified. If you have a long list, it’s a good idea to ask others to help you make those phone calls. For example, you can ask each person you call to in turn call two more names on your list. This will allow you to make the necessary notifications and names off the list once you ask others to contact those people.
Contact the Funeral Director
Including the name of a licensed funeral director in your contact list is also very important. Funeral directors will know how to properly transport the body, obtain a death certificate, and arrange for the proper funeral and burial services.
Contact the Executor
If you know who the executor of the loved one’s estate is, it’s best to notify that person as soon as possible. The executor might, for example, know exactly what kinds of funeral arrangements should be prepared. At the very least, the executor will want to know of the death so he or she can begin probate when appropriate.