There’s a lot to take care of after someone passes away. Family and friends need to be contacted, the funeral needs to be arranged, property needs to be taken care of and regular services stopped. Although this is a time of grieving, it’s also a time where it’s vital to contact an attorney that is knowledgeable in probate or trust administration to begin to discuss the necessary legal procedures as well. Here we look at 4 of the most essential legal steps you need to take after a loved one has died.
Obtain Duplicate Death Certificates
Once the funeral has been completed, it is important to collect several copies of the death certificate to complete the many legal tasks required after a relative has passed away. Your funeral director can help you obtain all the copies you need, and it’s helpful to check which paperwork requires an ‘official’ or ‘certified’ copy, and which paperwork will accept just a simple photocopy. You can also order additional death certificates from the vital statistics office, city hall or local records office in the state where your relative died for a fee between $10 and $20.
Handle Social Security, Medicare and Medical
Typically, your funeral director will notify the social security office of your relative’s death, but if not, it’s essential to contact your local social security office as soon as possible to let them know. If your loved one was receiving social security benefits when they passed away, it’s important to stop these benefits, as overpayment can require a complicated repayment process.
If your loved one was receiving Medicare, Medicaid , or in California, MediCal, notifying Social Security should also take care of stopping these benefits. If your relative was enrolled in Medicare Prescription Drug Coverage (Part D), Medicare Advantage plan or had a Medigap policy, you will need to contact these plans individually via the contact number on the membership card.
If you’re struggling to work out where you stand legally in regards to cancelling Medicare or Medical and Social Security benefits, contact your local estate planning lawyer or elder law attorney to assist with the process.
Look Into Insurance and Employment Benefits
If your loved one was still working at the time of death, contact the employer to ascertain whether pension plan, credit union or union death benefits apply. End coverage for health insurance for the deceased, but ensure that coverage for dependents will continue. If your relative had life insurance, file the appropriate claim forms and provide policy numbers, as well as a copy of the death certificate. Other insurance policies can be cancelled as well where appropriate, such as homeowner’s insurance as automobile insurance.
Meet With a Probate Attorney
If the decedent only had a will or no estate planning documents at all, it is very likely that the filing of a probate proceeding in superior court will be necessary. The probate process will require that specific notices are provided and procedures followed to transfer the estate assets to the correct beneficiaries. If the decedent had a “living trust” the filing of a probate may not be necessary; however certain specific procedures must still be followed before the assets are distributed to any beneficiaries. Failure to follow the correct procedures could result in executor or trustee liability. The advice of a competent, experienced probate or trust administration attorney will allow you to avoid a lot of frustration and work. The use of an attorney will likely help avoid conflicts with the beneficiaries and make the process flow more smoothly, ensuring a better outcome for everyone!