Knowing where your father’s (or mother’s) estate planning papers are located and what his wishes and intentions were, regarding his estate, will make dealing with his passing at least a little bit easier. Having plans in place before a death occurs will help you greatly during this difficult time. We always encourage our clients to plan for the future and reduce the confusion during a time of grief. In fact, conflicts can occur when plans have not been made and it’s up to the children to determine what their parents would want.
If you’re already in that situation, we are very sorry for your loss and we are here to help ease the burden of this difficult time. Here are the first steps you should take:
Obtain Legal Pronouncement of Death
This legal pronouncement, or death certificate, is the first important document you’ll need to obtain. If your parent passes at home, the first call will probably be to paramedics, who will contact a doctor, who can provide a legal pronouncement. If he or she was under hospice care, contact the hospice nurse. They can assist with the documentation.
Make the Necessary Notifications
A large number of parties will need to be notified soon after your parent’s death. A funeral home, mortuary, or crematorium will likely help with these notifications. They can also arrange transportation for your parent. We suggest you contact his or her doctor, employer, and any military, fraternal, or religious organization that he or she belonged to (these groups might provide services at the funeral). Family members and friends will, of course, also need to be contacted. It is often helpful to find someone who can look after the family’s home if no one is living in it any longer. An obituary should be provided to the local newspaper, if desired.
We recommend getting between 5 and 10 copies of the death certificate, as you will need original, certified copies for the clerk of court, banks, insurance policies, and some other institutions.
Locate Key Papers
The amount paperwork you’ll need to locate in the event of a parent’s death can be daunting. The most pressing items to find as soon as possible are the will and information about funeral plans already in place. These items will help you know what your next steps should be. A well-prepared will offers details about their intentions regarding their estate. It will eventually be taken to the appropriate county clerk to be filed for probate.
If you are named as the executor of your parent’s will, our office can provide information regarding the responsibilities this role entails. And we can walk you through the process from the initial filing and providing required notices through reports filed with the clerk and payment of claims, to ultimately final distributions.
Know Assets and Obligations
A complete list of your parent’s assets and obligations might require quite a bit of research, but it is essential. Information regarding insurance policies, financial accounts, titles and deeds, and any other assets will need to be gathered. You will also want to find out if your parent had a safe deposit box and where the box is located. Material pertaining to unpaid bills and any other debts or financial obligations will also need to be located to determine exactly what financial obligations the estate might have.