The death of a loved one is a trying time, and it can be brutally difficult to concentrate enough to pull together all of the tasks that you will need to perform. For this reason, it is best to compose a list of tasks in advance, while your mind is still clear. Following is some general guidance (although the foregoing list is far from complete).
Phase 1: Information Gathering
- Create a document file where you will keep all vital records. Include your loved one’s full name and social security number.
- Order certified copies of your loved one’s death certificate. You will need one short form for every county where he owned real property, and one more short form for probate.
- Collect all of your loved one’s bank statements and checkbooks, including those for accounts jointly owned with you or someone else.
- Collect all of your loved one’s estate planning documents — last will and testament, trust documents, life insurance policies, retirement plans, etc.
- Collect any instructions relating to your loved one’s funeral and memorial services (last wishes, etc.).
- Collect biographical information for your loved one’s obituary.
Phase II: Notification
- Notify relatives and close friends of your loved one’s death.
- Contact a funeral home, church, etc. to make arrangements for the funeral and memorial service.
- Notify the Social Security Administration (SSA) of your loved one’s death. If your loved one has been receiving benefits, do not spend any of the benefits for the month of your loved one’s death until the SSA has removed a pro rata share.for the portion of the month that arrived after your loved one died.
- Contact a lawyer for assistance regarding probate and estate issues.
- Contact life insurance companies with which your loved one held policies, and request documentation for applying for benefits. Notify any beneficiaries that you can identify.
- Contact your loved one’s employer for information on insurance, pensions and death benefits, if any.
- Report your loved one’s death to any other party from which you or someone else might be entitled to death benefits (the Veterans Administration for example) and determine whether any such benefits apply.
Phase III: Opening Probate
- Open probate by (I) submitting the will and you loved one’s death certificate to the clerk of the circuit court in the county where your loved one resided when he died, (II) filling out paperwork and (III) paying the filing fee.
- If you are named the personal representative of your loved one’s estate, you will be subject to many more duties including inventorying all estate assets, paying estate creditors, filing estate tax returns and distributing estate assets under the direction of the probate court.
Contact Lorenzo Law Immediately
At Lorenzo Law, we enjoy the benefit of years of experience in organizing the turmoil that you are now facing, so that you can concentrate on recovering from your loss. Contact trusts and estates attorney Jose Lorenzo by telephoning (305) 999-5411, completing our online contact form, or visiting one of our offices in Coral Gables and Ft. Lauderdale. We handle cases throughout the entire state of Florida.