Even though we know better, we all prefer to think our loved ones will live forever. We probably have never sat down and thought about what steps we will need to take after a loved one passes away. Consequently, if we find ourselves in this position we may not know what to do. Although everyone’s experience is unique, the Oklahoma City trusts and probate attorneys at Parman & Easterday have put together a list of practical steps typically needed to be taken following the death of a loved one.
- Notify the hospital/authorities of organ donation. If your loved one was an organ donor, or you have the authority and choose to make this decision, it is crucial to notify someone immediately.
- Arrange for handling of the body. If you know what funeral home you want to use, notify it immediately. If the decedent made his or her own funeral and burial plan, the terms of that plan must be followed. Look for a pre-paid funeral contract or funeral trust among the decedent’s estate planning documents. If a funeral trust was created, the person named as Trustee in that trust is in charge of the arrangements.
- Notify close family. You undoubtedly know who you need to contact. If you are unable to speak to them yourself, make sure you designate someone else to make the calls.
- Secure major assets. Make sure major assets, such as the decedent’s home and vehicle are secured. This means securing keys, changing locks, and possibly even arranging for someone to monitor the property.
- Obtain several (usually up to 10) certified death certificates. You (or whoever is the Executor of the estate) will need to provide proof of the decedent’s death to financial institutions and a variety of other third parties. In Oklahoma, death certificates are obtained from the funeral home or you can obtain them through the Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH).
- Consult with the funeral home. Even if the decedent has a pre-planned funeral, it is important to meet with the funeral home to make the final arrangements and ensure everything is moving along as intended.
- Notify extended family, friends, and the public. You should notify any friends and family who don’t already know, write the obituary and make arrangements for it to be published.
- Close accounts. Notify banks, credit card companies, investment funds, and other accounts of the decedent’s death, who now has authority to act, and provide the new taxpayer identification number (EIN) to replace the decedent’s social security number..
- Stop benefits. Contact the Social Security Administration (normally done by the funeral home), the Veterans Administration, and any other government agency to terminate the decedent’s benefits.
- Look for estate planning documents. Search for a Last Will and Testament, trust agreement, life insurance policies, and any other estate planning documents. If you do not already know where the decedent kept these documents, check for a home office, ask close family members, or contact the decedent’s attorney.
- Consult with a trust, estates and probate attorney. The trust administration or probate processes must be initiated to ensure that debts of the estate are paid and estate assets are passed down to the intended beneficiaries.
- Make a list of assets and debts. Not only will this help with the trust administration or probate process, but there may be bills you must continue paying, such as a mortgage payment.
- Cancel less important accounts. Contact the post office to forward the decedent’s mail. Cancel memberships (particularly anything on auto pay).
- Order a headstone. If this has not already been done, it can be done at this time.
- Shut down electronic accounts and social media. If you have access, or the decedent left a list of passwords, start shutting down online accounts. If you do not have the necessary information/access, you may need to wait until later in the trust administration or probate process.
Contact an Oklahoma City Probate Attorneys
For additional information, please join us for an upcoming FREE seminar. If you have additional questions or concerns about the practical steps that need to be taken following a death, or if you would like assistance probating an estate, contact an experienced Oklahoma City probate attorneys at Parman & Easterday by calling 405-843-6100 or 913-385-9400 to schedule your appointment today.