9 Important Legal Actions To Take After A Death In The Family

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9 Important Legal Actions To Take After A Death In The Family

The death of a loved one is never an easy thing to deal with. In addition to the emotional strain, there are also many legal and financial issues that need to be taken care of. This article will discuss 9 important things that you can do after a family member passes away.

1. Obtain Certified Copies Of Death Certificates

Death is never easy, but you can make it a little easier by having several copies of a certified death certificate. You will need this document for things like filing life insurance claims, closing bank accounts, and dealing with government agencies. 

Editor’s Note: You can obtain a death certificate by contacting the Vital Records Department in the county that your family member passed away in. 

2. Find Your Loved One’s Will

Hopefully, your loved one has made a will and told you where it is. In it, they will have named an executor and directed where their property should go.

If there is no will, your loved one’s property will pass to others according to your state’s laws of intestacy. In this case, a judge will appoint an administrator to settle the estate.

3. Meet With An Attorney and A CPA

You don’t have to retain an attorney to settle an estate, however, if the estate is complicated you may want one. For example, if there are real property holdings in several states, there is a business, or there are multiple brokerage accounts, you may need legal and/or accounting assistance. Definitely get help filing income taxes for the decedent.

4. Inventory The Deceased’s Assets 

Laws vary by state, but the probate process usually starts with an inventory of all assets such
● bank accounts,
● retirement or pension accounts,
● house,
● car,
● brokerage accounts,
● personal property such as furniture, jewelry, and the like,
● collectibles.

For some items such as jewelry and collectibles, you may need to consult an appraiser.

Part of making an inventory is finding all of the decedent’s assets. This is called “marshaling the assets.” For high-worth or complex estates, marshaling the assets can take months or years. There are search firms that specialize in this if you require help.

5. Take The Will To Probate

Probate ensures that the deceased’s debts are paid and that remaining asset are distributed to the beneficiaries.

6. Gather The Deceased’s Bills

Share these bills with the executor so that the mortgage, property taxes, and utilities are paid while the estate is being settled.

7. Cancel Services And Close Accounts That Are No Longer Needed 

If the deceased’s real property is unoccupied, forward the mail to the executor or to someone who will be responsible for organizing it. In this case, you can also cancel phone, cable, internet, and streaming services.

Close online accounts such as email and either delete or memorialize social media accounts.

Cancel the decedent’s driver’s license, and close any credit card accounts and bank accounts, as all financial assets will be deposited into the estate account by the executor.

Send copies of the death certificate to the three credit reporting agencies to prevent identity theft.

8. Notify The Social Security Administration Of Your Family Member’s Death 

If the deceased was receiving Social Security benefits those payments end upon death. You can also find out if any family members are eligible for death benefits from Social Security.

Generally, funeral directors help with reporting deaths to the Social Security Administration. Touch base with your funeral home to find out if they are taking care of this for you.

9. File Your Life Insurance Beneficiary Claim

If your loved one had life insurance, the beneficiaries will need the policy number and a death certificate to file a claim for death benefits. If the insurance company denied or delays paying your claim, here are the most common reasons life insurance won’t payout and what you can do about it.


Grieving the loss of a loved one is never easy, and it’s not just about feeling sad…

There are many other things to consider such as making funeral arrangements and legal actions to take after death.  Decisions like whether or not you want your spouse to be able to access your bank account if you die without a will and other legal issues. 

Making these plans ahead of time can help reduce stress for everyone involved after the death has occurred. Have you made any last wishes with family members? If so, make sure those people know where important documents are located in so that there is no confusion after there is a death in the family. 

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