When someone close to you dies, the grieving process is often interrupted by everything else that needs to be done. If you have never lost a spouse, child, or parent, you may not know what’s involved in dealing with that loss. There are financial and legal matters that are time-sensitive and cannot be delayed. This guide will help you gain a better understanding of this process.
Manage Your Grief
It can be helpful to set aside specific time periods out of each day to allow yourself to grieve. While this may sound ineffective, you’ll be surprised to find out how much this helps. This doesn’t mean you won’t be overcome by emotions at other points in your day. When that does happen, take a moment for yourself. You should look for someplace that will provide you with a moment of privacy, so you can take a deep breath and refocus your thoughts. That brief meditative moment is often enough to help you gain better control over your grief.
Obtain an Official Certificate of Death
Everything else you must do in relation to the death of your loved one will require presenting the death certificate. Whether that involves filing a life insurance claim or making final arrangements, you will need to present copies of the death certificate in each situation in order to move forward. The death certificate is issued after a medical professional issues a pronouncement of death, which is the official document that declares an individual to be deceased. If the individual died in a hospital, hospice center, or assisted living facility, the staff will initiate this process automatically. However, if they died at home, you will need to call 911 for an ambulance in order to start this process.
Make Funeral Arrangements
Your next task will be to notify the surviving family members and friends, which will involve going through the deceased individual’s phone and address book to look for contacts. While you will probably miss some people, you should try to be as thorough as possible. You may find that some family members have offered to help with the funeral and burial arrangements. If you feel comfortable accepting their help, you should accept the offers.
Additionally, search through the decedent’s papers to find out if they made their own final arrangements. They may have left a letter, or another document, that details their wishes for funeral services and specifies their burial or cremation plans. If you can find no such documents, it will be up to you to make those arrangements on your own, using your own best judgment.
Prepare for Probate
If you were the spouse or another close relation to the deceased individual, you may have been named the executor. In this case, you will have to consult with a probate attorney. It’s best to work with a local agency, and you can simply find one by searching, “Houston probate attorney” online. This will be necessary to deal with the complexities of the probate process. If the individual died intestate, or without a will, this may involve going to court to select a personal representative, determine how assets will be distributed, and arrange custody for minor children. However, an existing will should address all of these matters. In this case, you will be ready to inventory the deceased person’s assets and notify creditors that the individual has died.
The probate process can take several weeks to several months to be complete. During this time, creditors can submit demands for payment in order to close the individual’s accounts. Your attorney can help you submit letters that ask creditors to cancel the individual’s debts and, in some cases, the creditors may agree or may reduce the amount owed. The remaining assets must be paid by the estate, which means you’ll have to liquidate the assets through an auction and use the cash to pay off those debts. After the probate process is complete and you have also paid estate taxes, you can distribute the remaining assets according to the terms of the will.
One thing people often forget to do is to cancel the social media accounts, financial accounts, and monthly subscriptions that are in the deceased person’s name. If they left behind a list of usernames, passwords, and PINs, this process will be easier. If not, you will have to contact each individual company and request that the account is closed. This will be another situation in which you’ll need to provide copies of the individual’s death certificate.
As this guide suggests, dealing with the death of a loved one is a complicated process, but an experienced attorney can make it easier. In addition to your lawyer, don’t be afraid to turn to the rest of your family for support. Asking for help when you need it can make it easier for you to deal with your loss as you tend to the legal and financial concerns that your loved one’s passing has raised.