First Steps After Death

Many people feel the need to try to take care of legal matters immediately after the death of a loved one. However, most legal paperwork cannot begin without original death certificates. When ordering death certificates, begin with ordering two certificates and then the general rule is to order one additional certificate for each financial institution or credit card company of the deceased. Additional copies can always be ordered if you need them at a later time.

You should be aware that Social Security will need to be notified of your loved one’s death. Usually, the funeral director will report the person’s death to the Social Security office. It is important to contact Social Security as soon as possible as the surviving family members may be entitled to receive benefits from Social Security. If the deceased was receiving Social Security benefits, you must return the benefit received for the month of death or any later months. If received by direct deposit, contact the bank or other financial institution to ask them to return any funds received for the month of death or later.

You will also want to ensure that you continue to collect and open the deceased’s mail so that you do not miss any important bills, financial statements, time-sensitive notices, or subscriptions. It is important to begin notifying credit card companies and subscription services (e.g., magazines, cable TV, etc.) that your loved one has died in order to prevent unwanted charges and fees. These companies, however, may require you to present a death certificate.

In order to prepare to speak with an attorney about administering your loved one’s estate, during this time you need to begin gathering important documents including:

  1. Originals of all wills and codicils.
  2. Originals of all trusts and amendments established by decedent.
  3. Most recent bank statements for accounts on which decedent’s name appears as either sole or co-owner in any capacity and copy of signature card for each account. Copies of monthly statements.
  4. All passbooks and savings certificates on which decedent’s name appears.
  5. Most recent statements for all mutual fund and stock brokerage accounts. Copies of monthly statements.

It is important to contact an attorney to help guide you through a probate or trust administration process. There are legal and tax deadlines that you do not want to miss because you waited too long to begin the process of administering your loved one’s estate.

At the Law Offices of Lisa C. Bryant, we strive to make an overwhelming and emotional time much easier so you can focus on remembering your loved one without worrying about legal matters.


Contact The Law Offices Of Lisa C. Bryant

When you feel ready, please call our office at 800-970-3414 toll free or contact us online to schedule a complimentary consultation. At the conclusion of the consultation, we will quote you a flat fee for our services. Our law firm is conveniently located between Interstate 880 and Highway 87 in San Jose.

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