What to do when a loved one dies:
- Get Multiple Copies of the Death Certificate
Get at least 10 copies. You will use them for various different reasons so it is better to have multiple copies.
You will need a death certificate for insurance companies, the court, credit card companies, and other accounts. You will need a death certificate to probate an estate and to provide to the attorney. Many funeral homes will give you one or two certified copies of the death certificate free of charge.
- Obtain Letters of Authority from the Court or the Certificate of Trust Existence.
Before you can reach out to institutions that a deceased person was doing business with, you’ll have to provide those companies with proof that you have a right to wrap up the deceased’s financial affairs.
The proof you need is in the form of documents called letters of authority. However, depending on the size of the estate you may be able to wrap things up with a simplified probate procedure provided for in the State of Michigan.
Estate attorneys can secure these documents for you and help you navigate probate court, among other things and determine the best way to file for the estate.
- Consult a Lawyer . After a loved one dies, many heirs may hesitate to hire legal help because they worry about the cost.
An estate attorney can save an estate thousands of dollars, make the process easier, and help avoid problems and liabilities along the way. With the personal representative acting in a position of trust called a fiduciary relationship, they have a responsibility and liability as it pertains to the property of the estate. Estate lawyers can help navigate through these responsibilities.
- Collect and Secure Important Documents such as:
- Death certificate(s)
- Will or trust
- Insurance policies (life, homeowners, health, disability, auto, etc.)
- Last credit card statements
- Investment accounts (IRAs, 401(k) plans, mutual funds, pensions, etc.)
- Last checking and savings account statements (including CDs and money-market accounts)
- Last mortgage statement
- Last two years’ tax returns
- Marriage and birth certificates (of the deceased’s spouse and children)
- An up-to-date credit report of the deceased
All these documents are important protect the assets of the estate and pay any creditors. They will also help you determine if there is money due to any beneficiaries.
- Notify Financial Institutions, Government Agencies and Others
A key next step is to notify all the following places of the individual’s death. Each is important for different reasons.
- Social Security Administration
- The deceased person’s employer
- Insurance companies
- Credit bureaus
- Credit card companies
- Post office
- Utility companies
The Social Security Administration will put the person on the Master Death index, which can help prevent fraud on the estate.
The U.S. Postal Service should be given a change of address so that the mail will be delivered to the personal representative.
- Cancel or Transfer Accounts, Memberships and Subscriptions
Look on credit card statements and bank accounts for any memberships or monthly accounts that may be in effect. Cancel other financial accounts that will be inactive. Transfer utilities to the surviving spouse.
- Apply for Benefits
Check for insurance on all kinds of accounts, which may pay the account in full or provide benefits, including car loans, credit cards, and mortgages.
Check with the deceased person’s employer and retirement accounts to see if other benefits may be available. There may be unused vacation time or bonuses that are already earned. Certainly check for life insurance proceeds and fill out appropriate claims forms.
- Pay Final Bills.
While paying the final bills for someone who’s died, don’t forget about things like property taxes or income taxes that may be due.
- Oversee the Distribution of Information. People can get information about a person through an obituary and use it for fraud. Be careful with your loved one’s personal information.
- Keep track of your time and expenses. The court will usually approve an amount to cover these expenses and your time when the estate is settled.
When someone we love dies, it is difficult to know what to do. The process can be complicated and involve dealing with people we don’t know how to handle. In addition, when people die, often those that are left have unpredictable behavior that others do not expect. A good estate lawyer and probate attorney is essential in situations like this. But it is also important to have a basic understanding of the procedures of the Michigan Probate Court , so you can assist your attorney through the process and provide correct and accurate information.
Sometimes it is necessary to contest a will . Sometimes it is necessary to ask for supervision of a trust, especially when trust property is mismanaged. Sometimes it is important to get information you are entitiled to as the beneficiary of a trust. These procedures are complicated and will require the assistance of an attorney that is knowledgeable in probate court procedures and trust management.
After we go through a situation like this, we often think about what we can do to create an atmosphere of peace for our children and heirs when we die. Is there a way to avoid probate? Is a Living Trust the answer this question? These are important questions that have different answers depending on your financial situation, how your assets are currently structured, and what your economic plan is.