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Checklist after Death of Parent
The death of a parent or spouse leaves a vast emptiness and pain in our lives.
Apart from mourning, there is also a lot to do, from organizing the final send-off to settling the estate.
To help you streamline the process and achieve compliance with state laws, we have summarized the essential points for you.
Key Procedures and Checklist after Death of Parent or spouse
Key Procedures and Checklist after Death of Parent
1. Have the death declared by a doctor
2. Contact the funeral directors
3. Establish an announcement or a death notice
4. Organ donation (if consent)
5. Burial or cremation
6. Inform the employer
7. Notify life health insurance provider
8. Notify pension funds
9. Contact banks and credit organizations
10. If your loved one was in a civil partnership, notify the court, which will dissolve the contract
11. Contact insurance companies (home, auto, supplementary health, etc.)
12. Notify the lessor and the property manager (if he was co-owner) or the tenant
13. Suspension of service provision contracts (water, gas, electricity, Internet, telephone, etc.)
14. Mail forwarding request
15. Asset inventory and debt settlement
16. Income and estate tax declaration
17. Probate and estate distribution
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Procedures Within 24 Hours of Death
First of all, it is essential to ensure that the deceased’s last wishes are respected (burial or cremation, donation of the body to science, etc.). Your loved one may have specified them orally or through a will.
Before notifying all the organizations linked to the deceased, it is essential to go through these specific preliminary steps:
Get the death declared by a doctor: If the death occurs in a hospital, the doctor duly takes care of this. If it happens at home, anyone present should call a doctor to declare the death.
If the event involves accidental death or suicide: Notify the police station immediately. A report of the circumstances of the death will then be drawn up. An autopsy is most often carried out to determine the causes of death and decide whether or not to conduct an investigation.
Address all issues related to organ donation: Discuss this with the doctor in line with the deceased’s last wishes. Tell friends and families: Contact all friends and families and ask them to spread the news.
The deceased’s final instructions: Look through their files and safety deposit box to find if they left a burial plan or pre-death checklist. Ask among siblings, friends, and relatives.
Procedures Within 5 Days of Death
Once the urgent administrative formalities have been settled, relatives should take care of the funeral arrangement. The last wishes of the deceased should be respected. The deceased may have recorded them in a letter, in a will deposited with a notary, or as part of a funeral insurance contract. In the absence of such a document (or verbal wish), the family can choose a religious or secular burial or cremation.
Make burial arrangements: These include plans for burial or cremation in line with the deceased parent’s last wishes or religion and culture. Make plans for the remains’ transportation: The rules for transporting the body vary depending on where the person died. In the event of death at home, the body may remain there until the funeral.
Take note: In the context of the Covid-19 pandemic, specific measures apply. The body may be transported by the first responders or the medical examiner’s office. Conservation care procedures such as embalming will likely be skipped.
Find out if the deceased had burial benefits or cost discounts: If the decedent was part of a funeral society, find out if there are eligible burial cost discounts. Find out burial cost contributions if the deceased was on public assistance or in the military.
Manage the home:
- Keep the lights on.
- Feed the pets.
- Answer the telephone and collect the deceased’s mail-do all these while planning and coordinating funeral reception.
Notify trusts and Power of Attorneys: Notify all trustees, power of attorneys, and conservators of your parent’s death. They should help in estate distribution and expense management and may have information about the deceased’s last wishes.
Procedures Within 15 Days of Death
Among the steps to be taken, some are more urgent than others. The death certificate should be obtained within eight days and the other procedures done within two weeks or as soon as possible.
· Get death certificate drawn up; get several copies of death certificates, one for the court and one for each bank, insurance, and partnerships
· Contact probate attorney for assistance with a financial checklist after death
· Contact Veterans Affairs to halt monthly checks and seek death benefits
· Contact subscription service providers including Netflix and cellular telephones to discontinue services
· Cancel driver’s license
· Close emails, social media, and other online accounts
· Terminate car, home, and other insurance policies
· Search for a will or trust documents
Notify banks, agencies, and other associations:
The Social Security Administration: If the decedent was receiving Social Security benefits, ask them to stop the check. Find out if family members are eligible for death benefits.
Life insurance providers: Contact the decedent’s life insurance providers to start the claims process. You will need a death certificate for this.
Banks and financial institutions:
1. Check if your loved one left a list of accounts.
2. Check transaction receipts and browsers for online passwords.
3. Contact the banks to obtain account information and the location of safe deposit boxes.
Accountants, tax preparers, and financial advisors:
1. Find out if you should file your loved one’s final income tax or estate tax.
2. Get all the holding information from stockbrokers and accountants to help identify and evaluate assets.
3. Find out which beneficiaries are listed for each account and assets.
Credit agencies: Notify credit companies of the death of your loved one, accompanying the death certificate in your message. Notify all the three firms Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax, to close credit card accounts to prevent the risk of identity theft.
Procedures with the employer
It is imperative to inform the employer of the death. It will be necessary to ask him/her to pay the balance of any account of the deceased and draw up the company’s certificate of presence. This is the opportunity to find out if a death benefit is provided. If he/she was a civil servant, there is bound to be one.
Procedures with pension funds
It is necessary to contact the deceased’s primary and supplementary pension funds, including if the latter was not yet retired. These organizations pay a survivor’s pension to widows and widowers. Only married spouses have access to reversion.
You should also contact insurance companies and terminate auto and home contracts. Take account of life insurance, death insurance, funeral insurance, and all insurance that may provide a death benefit. To know whether your loved one had a life insurance policy, contact the State Insurance Commissioner’s Office to request a search.
Procedures with banks
After the death, it is recommended to notify the deceased’s bank as soon as possible (a copy of the death certificate should be attached). Relatives should quickly return the deceased’s payment means to the bank (checkbooks and bank cards).
When a bank becomes aware of a customer’s death, it blocks the bank account (s) in the name of the deceased, pending the estate’s liquidation. This concerns his/her current bank account, checkbooks, and savings accounts.
The procedures for housing
If the decedent was a tenant: You should ask the landlord to terminate the lease on the day of death or transfer the lease. The person who was living with the deceased can remain in the dwelling by becoming the leaseholder.
If the decedent was a landlord: The tenants should be informed of the name, address, and bank details of the person who will now receive the rents. If the deceased was the owner of a co-ownership, notify the property manager.
Procedures with mail forwarding
It is important to forward the deceased’s mail if he was living alone or if his surviving spouse no longer lives in the accommodation. The request can be made to the post office of the place of residence of the deceased.
Procedures Within 30 Days of Death
Within the first month after your loved one’s death, ensure the will, trust, and other estate planning documents have been obtained if the decedent had any.
Read the will and open the safety deposit box. Hire a probate attorney to begin the estate distribution or trust administration process. Give the will and trust documents to the personal representative. The will executor and the successor trustee are the persons charged with the responsibility of distributing the estate -submit all the original will and all estate planning documents to them.
If there is a will, file the will to the appropriate probate court within 30 days of your loved one’s death. If there are minor siblings and the will specifies the guardian to be appointed, he/she needs to be informed. If no guardian is specified, the court should appoint one.
Read the will or trust documents: This is where the decedent’s representative reads the will or trust. This is the will executor or the trustee, and it’s the same person in charge of the funeral arrangements. When a departed loved one leaves a will, they also specify the will executor.
Open safety deposit box: You can open the box if you are a beneficiary named on it. Bank employees can also open it for you if you are an heir looking for a will or trust documents.
Maintain the estate:
1. Make a list of estate maintenance bills from water to electricity.
2. Note if the decedent had automatic payments and if payments are due.
3. Give all bills to be paid to the personal representative.
Create an inventory of assets: As an executor or survivor, you should create a comprehensive inventory of the decedent’s assets. Get an appraisal because tax declaration and estate distribution are based on the assets’ reasonable worth.
Settle debt: Locate long-term debts, including mortgages, bank loans, and car loans and hand them over to the personal representative to be paid before estate distribution. Do the same for credit card bills, rental payments, and nursing home bills.
Procedures 12-18 Months After the Death
Procedures with income taxes
If the departed loved one earned a taxable income in the year they died, federal taxes might be due. You or the appointed executor should declare and file a final income tax return. To do this, you will have to declare the deceased’s income between January 1 and the date of death. Note that the decedent’s taxable income also includes incomes from their revocable and grantor trusts if they have any.
Procedures with probate
If there is a will, the executor should initiate the probate process by getting approval and authorization from the courts to start estate distribution. If there is no will and the assets are not in a trust, you or any other family member can ask the courts to be appointed the decedent’s estate administrator. This is done by filing a petition for probate in the county court-the same county where the decedent died or lived.
Procedures with estate taxes
In California, will executors make a declaration of estate wealth tax (within nine months of the death) if the value of the estate assets exceeds $11.58 million? The estate tax is paid from the estate and not from the beneficiaries’ inheritances.
Procedures with Estate and Trust Distribution
Distribute the estate. Pay the beneficiaries after settling all bills and taxes owed on the estate. Transfer assets to the beneficiaries based on the will, the trust documents, or the state’s probate laws.
Hire a probate attorney to guide you in the probate process. With or without a will, probate attorneys can help streamline estate distribution. They act as arbitrators in disputes during the process and advise on tax matters in all asset-related decisions.
Hire a trust attorney to start the trust administration process. Trusts have between one and one and a half years to complete estate distribution after death. If you’re a trustee or successor trustee, send all copies of trust documents to the beneficiaries. Work with an accountant or trust lawyer for accurate accounting and compliance during the trust distribution.
After filing taxes and making estate distributions, you should file a final plan and accounting report with the court. This will show how you handled the distribution as a will executor. If everything complies with the law, you will be released from all obligations.
Settling an estate after death can be complicated. There are dozens of documents and laws that govern the procedures. Let us help you. Hess-Verdon is the utmost trust and probate law firm in California with over 30 years of experience. We can answer all your questions, guide you and help you wind up all legal and financial affairs after the death of your loved one.
Call Hess-Verdon at (949) 706-7300.
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