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Steps To Take When Someone Dies

Steps To Take When Someone Dies

When someone in your family dies, grief and inertia can combine to make it seem impossible to do what needs to be done.  Here is a guide to some of the steps to take when someone dies.

Steps To Take When Someone Dies: Get a Legal Pronouncement of Death

This is the very first thing that needs to be done. If your loved one died in a hospital, medical facility, or under hospice care, the staff will handle this for you. But if your loved one died at home, you’ll need to have a medical professional declare them dead. Call 911 and they will arrange to transport the body to a location where a death declaration can be made by the appropriate officials.

Steps To Take When Someone Dies: Contact a Funeral Director

Often this will be the very first step following a loved one’s passing.  Funeral directors can be an incredible support and will take most of the heavy lifting off your shoulders regarding the memorial service, following your loved one’s wishes, and disposition of the body.

Steps To Take When Someone Dies: Get Copies of the Death Certificate

The funeral director can usually help you with this, as well.  You will need several certified copies of the death certificate for various things.  While you can always get more, it is easier just to get a several to start with.  (And when you’re using them, if possible, use a copy— that way you have certified copies when you need them.)

If you opt not to use a funeral director, you can also obtain certified copies of the death certificate from the vital records office of the county where the death occurred.

Steps To Take When Someone Dies: Collect Important Documents

This obviously includes the Will– if there is one. Also deeds to property, any insurance policies, and any letters or other written items detailing the decedent’s wishes for the disposition of his/her body or property.   At this time, you will likely begin to identify debts and assets. This information will be needed for the Probate process, as well. This can be time-consuming and may end up happening over an extended period. That’s okay. Don’t worry. Keep at it and you’ll get there!

Steps To Take When Someone Dies: Notify People

Aside from alerting family and friends, you will want to notify Social Security, the Veterans Administration, insurance companies, and the deceased’s employer or pension plan (if there is one) of the person’s passing.  You will also want to notify banks, credit cards, and any company doing auto charges to the deceased’s accounts, as well as cancelling health insurance policies. The list goes on and on and you will find that this is where your extra death certificates come in handy.  Depending on where the deceased was living and who else also lives there, you will need to let the mortgage company know of the passing, but you may make strategic decisions about continuing to pay the mortgage to make sure the property doesn’t go into foreclosure.

Steps To Take When Someone Dies: Consult an Attorney

I would recommend consulting an attorney even if you intend to file for probate yourself.  You may get some useful advice that will help you avoid pitfalls.  Generally, of course, I advise consulting with and hiring an attorney as quickly as possible.  The attorney will be able to help with many things including reminding you who to notify and telling you whether you or anyone else are liable for the decedent’s credit card bills.

Remember, this may be the first time you’ve ever had to go through this process. A skilled attorney is very familiar with this process and knows exactly which steps should be taken.

Steps To Take When Someone Dies: File for Probate

The Courts in Georgia have specific forms that need to be filled out depending on the situation (Will, no Will, executor nominated in the Will wants to serve, someone other than the executor nominated in the Will wants to serve, etc.)  An attorney will be able to provide these forms and guide you through them.  You may also get some guidance from the clerk’s office, but they aren’t allowed to give legal advice, so their help is sometimes limited.  Check out my video on starting probate here.

Steps To Take When Someone Dies: Get Any Deeds Changed

Some property may pass inside probate (under the Will), but other property passes automatically by law when someone dies.  This depends on how the property is held.  There are several different ways of holding property, and sometimes the same thing can be described using different words, but one key giveaway will be if you see the term “with right of survivorship.”  This means that the property passes to whatever person or persons jointly owned the property with the deceased.  This is another time that your extra copies of the death certificate will be necessary.

This is by no means an exhaustive list (exhausting perhaps—what, no laughter?), but it will get you started in the right direction.  If you have further questions about any of these things, feel free to contact Siedentopf Law at (404) 736-6066 or schedule a consultation.

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