One of the most common questions that I’m asked as a Tampa probate lawyer is, “What are the most important steps I need to take after the death of a loved one?”.
Every situation is different, but in the days and weeks following the loss of a loved one, there are 8 tasks that I advise families to prioritize when working through the estate administration process. They are as follows:
- Secure all property– It’s important to secure and lock up all valuables, including garages and sheds. This can also prevent other family members from removing items before the estate is divided.
- Request certified copies of the death certificate- You will typically need several copies of a death certificate to administer an estate. You can usually order them from the funeral home or you can apply for them. You will also need the certificate to claim certain benefits, transfer property, close out bank accounts, and handle any other financial affairs.
- Freeze financial accounts– Take an inventory of your loved one’s financial affairs as soon as possible after his or her passing. Essentially, you will want to stop all automatic debits and place a freeze on all bank accounts and credit cards that are not jointly owned.
- Locate estate planning documents, and contact a Florida probate attorney– Most times, you can locate the deceased’s documents by contacting their estate lawyer following their death. The administration of their estate will depend on the legal documents that your loved one left behind.
- Relocate abandoned pets– If your loved one lived alone, you will need to relocate any animals from the house and place them with a family member, friend, or shelter. You may also want to contact their estate lawyer, as many pet owners will leave legal plans behind for their pets.
- Contact Social Security– Always call Social Security upon the death of a loved one. You can reach them at 1-800-772-1213. At that point, benefits will be stopped, and you can inquire about surviving benefits for a spouse or a child.
- Open Benefit Claims– If your loved one had a life insurance policy or was entitled to death benefits, you will need to contact any relevant benefit companies to start your claim.
- Consider long-term care for the surviving spouse– If your loved one left behind a spouse they cared for, you may want to start inquiring about long-term care services, including in-home, assisted living or nursing home care.
Of course, there may be additional steps to take depending on the circumstances of the deceased’s estate. If you have any questions, you can contact our Brandon will and trust law firm at (813) 438-8503 to set up a consultation.