Losing a loved one is a traumatic experience. There are never the right words to make you feel better when and after it happens. However, there are some books full of words that are helpful in providing techniques for coping. On our resources for coping with the loss of a loved one page, we recommend books and local support groups that may be helpful for you or anyone else you know that is grieving.
Some things you will probably have to do after a loved one dies but before you consult with an attorney:
Make Funeral arrangements
Oftentimes, the dearly departed chooses to make their own arrangements concerning funerals and the disposition of his or her remains known in their Will, Living Trust, or separate legal document. These instructions left by the dearly departed are not binding as there may be evidence that indicated the decedent had a change of heart after the Will and/or Trust was created.
In the absence of a valid direction by the dearly departed, the spouse has the right to make funeral arrangements concerning the disposition of the dearly departed’s remains. If there is no surviving spouse, then that right passes to the next of kin. A similar process applies with regards to whether the decedent intended to be make an anatomical gift.
Locate The Will and any other relevant estate planning documents (i.e. Living Trust)
If the location of the Will is not readily known, check for safes, strongboxes, filing cabinets, and the desk. Sometimes, the attorney that drafted the estate planning documents may be in possession of the decedent’s Will and other estate planning documents.
If you are unable to find the relevant documents after searching the home, try contacting the decedent’s attorney if you know who that is.
Take Necessary Steps to Inventory and Secure the Decedent’s Property
If there is a Will, the person nominated in the Will as the Personal Representative (in some states referred to as Executor) may take steps necessary to secure the decedent’s property and other assets. Provisions for securing the decedent’s residence should be made such as notifying the alarm company.
An inventory of the contents of the home should be made and steps taken to ensure that these items are don’t “disappear” prior to the administration of the estate.
Steps should be taken to limit or disable the use of the decedent’s automobiles until properly distributed or insurance is secured for the person entitled to it. Jewelry, cash, and other personal items of value should be collected and placed in a secure location.
Provisions for the pets should be made, however, there may be a direction in the Will or Trust, that provides direction as to how the pets shall be taken care of.