What to Do When a Loved One Passes (The Survivor’s Guide)

Settling an estate, after the loss of a loved one while grieving, is a difficult process. For the weeks and months that follow the funeral, handling the estate of a deceased individual may quickly overwhelm survivors. The steps outlined below provide a guide to survivors through this tumultuous time.


Immediately upon the death of a loved one

After notifying family members and close friends, contact a funeral director. The funeral director is able to assist with funeral and burial arrangements, publish an obituary, order the death certificate, and transport your loved one’s remains to the funeral home.


Collect necessary original legal documents

Begin the process of locating estate planning documents, such as a will and trust documents and insurance policies (funeral, death, and other policies). Oftentimes, these documents provide quick information on the extent of the estate, the insurance policy limits, and how assets can be accessed and ultimately distributed to survivors or beneficiaries.


Within the first ninety days

  • Consult a NY estates lawyer attorney. If you do not already have an estates attorney, consult one to understand the next steps of the legal process regarding the estate. An attorney can help you identify and inventory the assets of the estate and determine which process takes place in administering the estate, depending on the existence of a will. If the deceased person died without a will, called intestate, there is a legal process for the administration of those estates as well. An estates lawyer will be able to help you with either of those proceedings.
  • Review all insurance and employee benefit plans. Contact the insurance company for each policy to inform them of the death and to determine if and how benefits will be paid. Don’t forget to contact your loved ones employer to determine whether any benefits are available to family members or other designated beneficiaries, even if they are retired or were no longer working for the company.
  • Cancel unneeded services and credit cards. Review subscription services like newspaper subscriptions, cable TV, magazine subscriptions, online streaming services, mobile phones, gym memberships and car insurance and cancel them. Notify creditors that the account holder is now deceased and what payment options are available for the remaining debt.


Winding up the estate in the following months

  • Pay debts and file taxes. A NY estates lawyer can help determine which debts should be paid and which debts could be negotiated.


  • Make distributions of money and property to beneficiaries. A NY estates attorney can help you make payments from the estate outlined by a will, trust agreement, retirement account, an insurance policy or other assets. An estates lawyer can also handle changing the title to assets such as real estate, vehicles, accounts, policies, and more to transfer them to the proper recipients in the estate.


Once the estate is settled

The last step in this process is to review and update your own estate plan and beneficiary designations. You may need to appoint a new executor or trustee or revise the distributions to beneficiaries of your will or trust. Don’t forget to include the beneficiary designations on your retirement accounts and insurance policies in the review of your own estate plan.

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