While most families just finished enjoying a wonderful day together on Christmas Day, many families are also dealing with the loss of a loved one during this Holiday Season. Statistics show that the death rate is higher around Christmas and New Year’s, causing many families to have to deal with the loss of a loved one at a very emotional time.
For many families, it is all they can do to get through the funeral. But what happens after that? What do families need to do after all the bustle of the funeral and burial is over? This series of articles will hopefully provide answers to these questions and provide a checklist for families to follow.
What to Do After a Loved One Passes Away:
#1 – The very first thing to do is to ensure the safety and security of the people, pets, and possessions that the decedent (i.e. the person who passed away) left behind.
If the decedent was taking care of another person–whether it was their own incapacitated spouse, a child, or someone else who cannot take care of themselves–make sure to work with a lawyer to ensure that the child or incapacitated adult can be properly cared for by someone else. This may require a hearing to change custody or give someone else the right to take care of that child or incapacitated adult.
Likewise, it is important to make sure that all pets are taken care of by someone who will treat them well. It can be difficult to deal with pet issues after losing a loved one, but try to find someone in the family (or a close friend) to help care for the pets until a permanent situation can be found.
Finally, make sure that you secure all of the assets of the decedent.
For the decedent’s home, make sure you do the following:
- Make sure someone waters the grass, mows the lawn, etc.
- Get a trusted neighbor to watch the home (or ask the local police to patrol weekly)
- Make sure to check on it to see if maintenance is needed (e.g. have any pipes broken in the cold weather)
- Turn off any unnecessary utilities (like cable, telephone, internet, exterminators, etc.
- Change the locks on the home to ensure that former caretakers or others who have keys cannot steal items from the home
- Remove any valuables from the home (e.g. jewelry or art) and store in a secure location (such as a safety deposit box)
- Clean out the refrigerator and pantry of any perishables
- Get a vacancy endorsement from the homeowner’s insurance company
- Make sure to continue paying mortgage, taxes, and homeowner’s insurance
Likewise, you’ll want to make sure that all of the decedent’s vehicles are properly secured and maintained. You or someone you trust will need to drive the vehicle at least once a week (for maintenance purposes), make sure the oil is changed (if necessary), and take other reasonable measures to ensure that the vehicle is properly maintained. Also, don’t forget to alert the decedent’s insurance carrier of the decedent’s death.
These are the first steps that families should take after a loved one passes away. Each of these steps is vitally important, so contact a Probate Attorney if you need help in taking these actions.
Tomorrow, we will look at other steps that should be taken after these immediate concerns are remedied.
Note: If you have any questions about these issues, or any other probate issues, please give our Probate Attorneys a call at 214-236-2712 or click here to learn more. We regularly help families probate the estate of their loved ones, and we can help walk you through this trying process.