The death of a loved one can be an extremely difficult time. During this time of grief, you may not want to think about the arrangements that have to be made after a loved one passes away. However, it is important to take care of these matters as soon as possible.
There are several matters that require urgent attention. These are matters that need to be handled before you even start thinking about probate or the probate administration process.
As a personal representative, taking care of these urgent matters can help ease the burden of the probate administration process and ensure that the deceased’s affairs are handled properly.
1. Find the Estate Planning Documents
It’s important to gather their estate planning documents, including their will or trust, if they have one. This information will help you understand their final wishes and make the appropriate arrangements. The knowledge that a will, trust, or other estate planning document does not exist is information that can help you plan for and move forward with the estate settlement process.
If you’re not sure where to start, begin by searching through your loved one’s personal papers and records. You may also want to ask family and friends if they know of any documents.
2. Search for Instructions Regarding Burial
Another matter of importance is to make arrangements for their burial or cremation as soon as possible. You will also need to decide whether or not to donate their body to science.
There are quite a few decisions to be made with respect to this. If you are choosing to bury your loved one, you will need to purchase a casket or grave liner and arrange for a funeral home to transport the body. You will also need to choose a burial plot at a cemetery. Lastly, you will also need to purchase a grave marker or headstone.
If you want to cremate your loved one, you will need to arrange for the cremation with a funeral home or crematory. You may also want to purchase an urn to hold the ashes.
3. Arrange for Organ Donation (If Applicable)
If you or your loved one has decided to be an organ donor, there are a few things you’ll need to do to make it happen.
The first step is to register with the state’s organ donor registry. This can be done online, in person, or by calling your local DMV. Once registered, be sure to tell family and friends about the decision so they know what to do in the event of death.
Next, arrangements will need to be made with a hospital or transplant center. Provide them with the necessary contact information and let them know what organs or tissue are being donated. It’s important to note that not all hospitals are equipped to handle organ donations, so be sure to check with your chosen facility ahead of time.
Finally, be sure to keep the registration and hospital information up-to-date in case anything changes. And above all else, don’t forget to tell your loved ones about the decision to donate.
4. Arrange the Funeral Service
Once you have made the basic arrangements with the funeral home or mortuary, you will need to start making decisions about the service. You will need to decide what kind of service you want, how long it should be, and what type of music should be played. You will also need to write an obituary and arrange for any flowers or other decorations that you want at the service.
5. Obtain Certified Copies of the Death Certificate
One of the steps that is often overlooked initially is ordering the death certificate. This is needed to recover certain assets, such as life insurance policies, and, in many Texas counties, to start the probate process.
It is important to note that the death certificate is usually not ready in Texas for a few days or even a few weeks after death. If the medical examiner is conducting an investigation, this process can take even longer. This is why it can be helpful to go ahead and order copies sooner rather than later.
After you have obtained certified copies of the death certificate, you will need to give them to various institutions and organizations. These include banks, insurance companies, government agencies, and employers.
6. Notify Social Security Administration and Pension Administrators
It’s important to notify the Social Security Administration (SSA) and any pension administrators of a death as soon as possible.
This will ensure that benefit payments are stopped and that the deceased person’s social security number is not used fraudulently. To notify the SSA, you’ll need to provide the decedent’s social security number, date of death, and proof of death (such as a death certificate). You can do this by calling the SSA at 1-800-772-1213 or visiting the local SSA office.
Notifying pension administrators will vary depending on the plan. You may need to provide the decedent’s social security number, date of death, and proof of death. Contact the pension administrator for more information on what is needed to notify them of a death.
7. Coordinate with Family Members to Notify Friends and Family of the Passing
It is important to notify friends and family of a loved one’s death as soon as possible. This can be a difficult and emotional task, so it is often helpful to coordinate with other family members.
There are a few different ways to notify people of the death. You can call or visit each person individually, or you can send out written notice. If you choose to call, it is often helpful to have a script ready so that you can deliver the news as concisely as possible. You will likely need to share the date and time of the funeral service as well as any other pertinent information.
If you choose to visit people in person, be sure to bring along any written notice that you would like to share. It is also important to be prepared for reactions that range from shock and disbelief to anger and sadness. Give people the time and space they need to process the news and express their grief.
It is also important to consider how you would like to receive support during this difficult time. Some people find comfort in being surrounded by loved ones, while others prefer some space and privacy. There is no right or wrong way to grieve, so do what feels best for you.
8. Coordinate Care for Dependents and Pets
If your loved one had pets, it is important to make arrangements for their care. Many people choose to designate a friend or family member as their pet’s guardian in their will. However, it is also important to make sure that the pet’s guardian has the means to care for the pet financially.
If your loved one had dependent children, arrangements will need to be made for their care in accordance to the decedent’s will. Many people set up a trust fund for their children’s care or purchase life insurance policies that name the children as beneficiaries.
Losing a loved one is never easy, but it’s important to make sure their affairs are taken care of promptly and with respect. It can also be beneficial to seek out professional advice if you need assistance navigating all the paperwork or legal requirements associated with handling your loved one’s estate. Doing so may help provide some comfort as you take these steps forward in making final arrangements.
Our Houston Probate Attorneys provide a full range of probate services to our clients, including helping with disputes between heirs. Affordable rates, fixed fees, and payment plans are available. We provide step-by-step instructions, guidance, checklists, and more for completing the probate process. We have years of combined experience we can use to support and guide you with probate and estate matters. Call us today for a FREE attorney consultation.
The content of this website is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. The information presented may not apply to your situation and should not be acted upon without consulting a qualified probate attorney. We encourage you to seek the advice of a competent attorney with any legal questions you may have.