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Charleston Estate Planning & Asset Protection Blog

Saturday, October 6, 2018

22 Things You Should Do Following the Death of a Loved One

When a loved one dies, whether expected or not, your life can become overturned. Suddenly you’re faced with questions about “What happens next?” from family and strangers alike. Often, the internal dialogue becomes simply – “What do I do now?” on a continuous loop. Our wills and trusts lawyers see this phenomenon every day. While we can’t take the pain away, we can offer some tips that can help you move through the “What happens next?”

Immediately After a Loved One Dies

After the death of a loved one, the most important piece of advice we can give is this – give yourself time. This can mean taking people’s offers of help. Delegating tasks can help alleviate feelings of overwhelm. Here are some things that should happen within the first couple of days:

  1. Contact a Funeral Home – they can help you arrange for things like organ donation and disposition of your loved one’s remains. Be sure to check with your loved one’s will, advance directive, or other document designating their wishes.
  2. Notify Immediate Family – Whether you do this one person at a time or arrange a Skype call to have everyone together, family dynamics will play a role in the decision. Consider allowing key family members to assist you in notifying additional family members so you can focus on other things.
  3. Notify Close Friends and Other Family Members – again, allowing other close family members to assist in this task can reduce your stress and let you take time for your own grief.
  4. Secure Property – Make sure your loved one’s home, car, and other valuable assets are locked and in a secure place. Arrange for pets to be taken care of.

Before the Funeral

Hopefully, your loved one spoke with you about his or her wishes for their end-of-life celebration, or wrote it down in an advance directive or other legal document. From there, you’ll want to take care of:

  1. Making arrangements with the funeral home
  2. Making special plans for veterans
  3. Obtaining financial assistance for funeral and burial expenses
  4. Arrange for headstones, caskets or urns
  5. Prepare an obituary and submit to local paper
  6. Plan a post-service gathering, if desired
  7. Notify friends and family of important dates

Following the Funeral

After the funeral, things tend to quiet down, giving you an opportunity to focus on some of the more administrative matters surrounding settling the estate. Use this checklist to stay organized:

  1. Identify last will and testament, trusts, and other legal documents
  2. Obtain multiple certified copies of death certificates from the vital statistics office
  3. Notify the Social Security Office
  4. Notify Medicare, if applicable
  5. Collect and sort mail – identify key pieces like bank and credit card statements, utilities, and other important documents
  6. Make a list of bills and debts
  7. Terminate insurance, utilities and other services no longer needed
  8. Notify financial advisors of the death
  9. Cancel driver’s license
  10. Close down email, websites and social media accounts
  11. Cancel memberships and subscriptions

Talk to a South Carolina Wills and Trusts Attorney

No matter how prepared your loved one may have been, survivors often face complicated situations that could seem insurmountable. If this is the case, schedule a consult with one of our South Carolina wills and trusts lawyers today.


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Wiles Law Firm, LLC helps clients with their estate planning needs in Charleston, South Carolina and the surrounding areas such as West Ashley, Summerville, North Charleston, Mount Pleasant, and John's Island.

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