When a person dies, his or her surviving loved ones and family members are often left wondering what they should do and the steps to take following the death. If you have recently experienced the loss of a loved one, you may be feeling stressed out and anxious, in addition to the grief you are likely dealing with as a result of the death. At SBK Law Group, our experienced attorneys understand that the emotional nature of such situations can cause oversights that lead to serious problems moving forward. With this in mind, it is important to understand the things that need to be done in the period following the death of a loved one. The executor or representative of the estate is ultimately responsible for most of these items, but anyone who was close to the deceased person can help as well.
One of the first things you should do after a loved one’s death is to obtain a legal pronouncement of death. This is especially important if the person outside of a hospital or nursing home setting. Once the pronouncement is recorded on the death certificate, you should also obtain 10-15 certified copies of the death certificate. These copies will be instrumental in managing various aspects of the decedent’s estate.
As soon as you can after the person passes, let close family members and friends know about the death. Immediate family and close friends can help notify extended family and more distant friends. Enlisting the help of others can reduce the number of stressful phone calls that you will need to make. You will also need to make funeral arrangements. The funeral director can often help you obtain copies of the death certificate and provide information regarding other resources that may be useful for you and your family.
The executor of the estate will usually know where to find the decedent’s important documents, but he or she may ask you to find and secure them. These important documents may include:
These documents will provide a comprehensive picture of the overall estate and offer guidance to the executor on how to handle certain aspects of the death and the estate. Titles, deeds, and account documents are important to determine which assets are held by the deceased person alone, which could affect the requirements for probate.
A person’s will becomes public record immediately upon his or her death. Presuming that your loved one signed and executed a will, you need to find it and file it with the clerk of the county circuit court. This must be done within 30 days of discovering the will. Filing the will is such an important part of the process that Illinois considers destroying or hiding a will for more than 30 days to be a felony criminal offense.
Upon your loved one’s death, you might be assigned the responsibility of securing his or her property. This might mean locking, insuring, and winterizing your loved one’s home or real estate holdings, as well as safely storing any vehicles or movable property. The unprotected property could be vulnerable to vandalism or theft. You should also compile a list of the decedent’s personal property, including anything you find in his or her home. This should be done as quickly as possible to prevent family members and friends from taking personal items before they can be accounted for in the estate. Personal property should be secured if possible, as well. In addition, it may be beneficial to have someone stay in the deceased person’s residence during the funeral or services, as this is a prime target for thieves who watch death notices.
An important step toward securing your loved one’s estate is canceling any accounts that he or she has open. These accounts may include credit cards, online social media accounts, and even a driver’s license. Leaving them open could create opportunities for identity thieves. Likewise, you should also contact any organization that makes payments to your loved one. These may include government agencies, such as the Social Security Administration, as well as pension fund managers or annuity companies. Stop the payments as soon as you can to avoid having to reimburse overpayments later.
The executor or representative of the estate is usually responsible for filing the decedent’s final tax return. In some cases, an estate tax return will be required as well. Following your loved one’s death, get in touch with a qualified tax preparer to get the guidance you need regarding the deceased person’s tax requirements. A tax professional can also help you understand any tax implications of transferring the estate’s assets to the heirs.
While this is step is listed last, it might be the most important item on the list. A qualified probate and estate administration lawyer can provide valuable insight and guidance in the wake of your loved one’s death, even if probate is not required. If you have recently lost a loved one, contact SBK Law Group for help with taking the next steps. Call 630-427-4407 to schedule a free, confidential consultation with a compassionate member of our team today. We serve individuals and families in Downers Grove, Naperville, Wheaton, Will County, Cook County, DuPage County, and the surrounding communities.