First Steps To Take After A Loved One Has Died

The hours and days following the death of a loved one are a trying time, but it is crucial to do what is necessary to fulfill your loved one's wishes.

Below are first steps to take after a loved one has died. If you need help or have questions, I am attorney William J. Benz in Southampton, Pennsylvania. I have decades of experience in the administration of probate and estates in Bucks County and beyond.

Search For Written Instructions For Funeral Services, Burial Or Cremation

Find if the deceased named a "designated agent" to take care of arrangements; information about designated agents often can be found in durable powers of attorney or living wills. If you cannot find those instructions, contact the deceased's attorney and ask if he or she knows where the instructions are.

Order Death Certificates From The County Where The Death Occurred

It is likely you will need one certified copy for each major asset, including bank and financial accounts, vehicle, land and insurance policies.

Look For A Will

If there is a will, immediately notify the executor who is named in the will. The executor is responsible for managing the will. If there is no will, then the courts will administer the will.

Find Important Documents

Give all important documents to the executor as soon as possible. Documents sometimes can be found in a bank safety deposit box or at the office of the deceased's attorney. These documents can be:

  • Deeds
  • Financial accounts, including bank accounts, insurance policies, retirement accounts, investment accounts, tax returns, property tax statements and loan documents
  • Prepaid funeral contracts
  • Organ donation record
  • Social Security card or number
  • Birth certificate
  • Marriage license
  • Military service records
  • Court documents for adoptions and divorce
  • Driver's license
  • Passport, citizenship, immigration and/or alien registration papers

Locate Personal Information

This information can include:

  • Names and contact information of close family and friends
  • Names and contact information of lawyers, accountants and medical professionals
  • Family tree (this will be important if there is no will)
  • User names and passwords for online accounts
  • Passwords for computers, cellphones and other devices

Find Unpaid Bills

Find unpaid bills and give them to the executor. These can include:

  • Utility bills
  • Long-term debts
  • Rental payments
  • Credit card bills
  • Insurance bills
  • Property tax bills

Attend To Other Important Matters

This can be:

  • Checking on the deceased's home, property and pets. Place valuables in a safe place. Lock the house.
  • Contacting the post office
  • Stopping delivery of newspapers
  • Canceling appointments
  • Canceling services that are no longer needed

How To Contact Me

If you have a loved one who has died and you need help regarding what to do next, contact William J. Benz, Attorney at Law in Southampton, Pennsylvania. Call me at 215-436-9910 or contact me online.