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Whenever a loved one dies, the surprise and grief can paralyze a family. Sometimes, issues that need to be taken care of immediately are overlooked while the family grieves. However, steps can be taken ahead of time to avoid regret later on. Knowing what will be required of you when a loved one dies, will allow you the to make the necessary plans in advance.

1. Find Out Who is in Charge

The first thing to do when a loved one passes away is find out who is in charge. See if they have a financial power of attorney, a health care directive, a Will, or a trust in place. These documents will usually name the personal representative the decedent has chosen. This is the person who will be responsible for wrapping up the decedent’s affairs and dispersing the estate.

2. Check For Organ Donor Instructions

Many Californians are organ donors. However, if the organs are not removed before too much time has passed since the donor’s death, they may no longer be able to be transplanted. When the decedent has listed donations on his or her driver’s license or health-care directive, swift action must be taken. In many cases, this means the organs must be removed within in 48 hours of the donor’s death.

3. Plan the funeral

Unlike a wedding where you can have months or even years to plan ahead, funerals must usually be planned and executed in a matter of days. This includes contacting and inviting everyone and making the necessary arrangements. So, when a loved one dies, contact the funeral home as soon as possible so that you don’t add more stress to an already stressful situation.

4. Order Death Certificates

Immediately after a loved one’s death is also the time when you want to order death certificates. Death certificates are easier to obtain at this time than trying to order them later. It’s amazing how many death certificates you will go through when a loved one passes away. So, order at least 20.

5. Secure the home

Sometimes after a loved one dies, relatives, neighbors, and others will go into the decedent’s residence and take valuable assets or documents. It is, therefore, wise to prevent individuals from doing so. This might mean changing all of the locks, since a number of relatives, friends, and even neighbors may have keys.

6. Gather and Check the Decedent’s Important Documents

Your loved one may have a folder, file, drawer, or box of important estate planning documents, such as a list of investment accounts, various insurance policies, a will, etc. These documents can easily get lost in the aftermath of a person’s death. Frequently, these documents will contain death benefits or other things that need to be dealt with. If so, it’s better to address these matters as soon as possible, rather than trying to do so after the documents have been lost or misplaced..

7. Conduct a Family Meeting

If the decedent elected a personal representative or executive, this person (or the head of the family) should hold a family meeting. This is the time to let everyone know what’s going with your loved one’s estate and to reassure them that everything will be dealt with properly and transparently.

8. Contact the Neighbors

Neighbors can be very helpful when a loved one dies. However, they may be unaware that your loved one has passed. Ask them to keep an eye out for worrisome activity around the decedent’s home.

9. Contact Current or Former Employers

The decedent’s employers (current or former) should be notified of his or her death right way, in order for them to make whatever work arrangements need to be made and to start the process of applying for the decedent’s death benefits.

10. Take Care of the Mail

If there will be no one living in the decedent’s house for a while, the post office should be notified to hold or forward the decedent’s mail to make sure it does not accumulate in the mailbox. That can invite others to single out the decedent’s residence for burglary or other mischiefs.

11. Cancel Credit Cards

Nowadays, a person’s credit card information can be ripped off in no time at all. A person’s death presents a prime opportunity for credit card thieves. Locate the decedent’s credit cards and notify the suppliers of his or her death so that they can cancel the cards as soon as possible.

12. Notify Your Loved One’s bank

The decedent’s bank may not know that have passed away until they are told. Meanwhile, automatic deposits and withdrawals that are now unnecessary may continue to be made, but may need to be reversed later on at someone’s considerable inconvenience.

13. Contact the Social Security Office

If your loved one was receiving Social Security Benefits, they need to be discontinued right away. If these benefits continue to be paid, it will be a lot of trouble for the executor to pay them back later. Furthermore, in the event that there are death benefits to be paid to the decedent’s dependents, you will want to contact the Social Security Office to have these benefits commenced as early as possible.

14. Determine if the Estate Needs to be Probated

If the decedent passed away with assets that are only in their name and without a beneficiary designation, the estate may need to go through probate before these assets can be transferred. On the other hand, if everything was jointly owned or had a beneficiary designated, there is good chance that you won’t have to worry about the estate being probated.

15. Consult with Legal Counsel

You may require the assistance of competent legal counsel, especially when there are significant assets involved. An experienced attorney can walk you through all of the steps that need to be taken to settle the decedent’s estate.

While it may be difficult to complete these tasks while grieving the loss of a loved one, it is important to take action soon in order to avoid regret later on. If your loved one has recently passed away, an experienced California probate attorney can help. Call Jennifer E.S. Martin of Jarratt Martin Law, LLP today at (925) 750-7795 to schedule an in office apppointment. She is ready to assist you in your time of need.

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