If you are reading this, chances are that you have recently lost a loved one or are in the stages of making end of life plans. First of all, I want to offer my sympathies. This is something that I have been through on a personal and professional level many times and it is never easy. In the hopes that you can avoid additional stress, these are some things you may want to consider:
This might seem like one of the most natural and immediate things that you will do when you lose a loved one; it is not. Although the majority of your friends and family will have the experience of being able to reflect upon the great life and all of the memories that they have had with your loved one, you are the one reading this, so it appears as though you are the person responsible for making a lot of the tough decisions and handling a lot of loose ends that were left behind. Luckily, there are usually very few reasons that you need to act urgently when somebody has passed away. Take at least a week (preferably two) to compose yourself before taking on any major tasks. The days immediately after someone’s death are rather chaotic; much of the true gravity of the situation hits in the weeks after the visitors, phone calls and cards have stopped. This is the time to get to work. Occupying yourself with the task at hand will allow you to slowly adjust to life without a loved one.
2. Get Informed.
Assuming that you lived with your loved one, you may be very privy to information regarding their finances, obligations and property. Otherwise, it is time to get informed about what things you will need to deal with. You will want to obtain copies of your loved one’s death certificate from either the funeral home or from your County Health Department. By using these death certificates, you will often be able to cease payments to utility companies, notify life insurance companies of a possible claim, receive accounts from financial institutions that were designated as “Payable on Death” and even apply for death benefits from a former employer or the Social Security Administration. Many people hesitate to do these things because they do not want to appear greedy. However, your loved one wanted to provide for you and this is something that they would want to pass on to you. Don’t be shy! You are honoring them by following through with their last wishes.
3. Get Help.
Is this something that you can handle on your own? Maybe. Is it something you have to handle on your own? No. An experienced attorney will have the ability to help you successfully navigate any “twists and turns” that you encounter. Meeting with an attorney before taking any action will allow you to help develop a strategy for successful execution of your loved one’s last wishes.