When a loved one dies, there are a myriad of personal and legal responsibilities that must be attended to to close out their life. If you are the one that is in charge of these details, it can be overwhelming. You may need to figure out what is a estate planning lawyer and if and when you will need one. Planning the funeral and handling the estate will be up to you. With so many things to think about, you’ll need to get all the help you can. Here’s a checklist on what to do after a loved one passes away.
Get a Formal Declaration of Death
In order for a person to be considered legally dead, a licensed medical professional must make an official announcement of death. This will normally happen if your loved one dies in a hospital or nursing home. However, you will need to call 911 if the person dies at home. They will be transported to the emergency room for the declaration of death before being moved to a funeral home. Make sure to get a death certificate as you may need it for other legal purposes.
If a death is suspicious, an autopsy may be required before an official declaration can be made. You may need to pay a fee to have this autopsy performed. The person who makes the official declaration may not be the person who signs the death certificate. Time of death can be important when it comes to survivorship clauses in wills. When taking into consideration what is a estate planning lawyer and why you need one, this issue can be critical when it comes to beneficiaries receiving assets from the estate.
One of the first things you will do after a loved one passes away is plan the funeral services. You may need to look through the deceased person’s paperwork to discover if there are any final wishes. The number of adults who have a will or other estate planning document has decreased by 25% over the last few years. If you can’t find any written final wishes, you may need to gather the family together to discuss plans and ask for their advice. You will need to decide on a funeral chapel to start making the necessary arrangements.
Arrangements will need to be made with the funeral home to pick up the deceased body. If you are choosing cremation over a funeral, you can contact a direct cremation company to take care of everything. Begin finding out what you will need to do with the deceased person’s property and possessions. If necessary arrange for organ donation if the deceased has agreed to be a donor. You can check the person’s drivers’ license for this information. If you are having a funeral or memorial service, finalize plans with the funeral director and order a casket or urn.
Choosing Floral Arrangements
If you want to have funeral flowers at the service, you’ll need to order them a few days in advance. You can order them directly from a florist or arrange a local flower delivery. The most common flowers for a funeral include lilies, orchids, roses, and carnations. You may want to choose flowers that the deceased person loved the most.
Flowers can be sent directly to the funeral director prior to the service. If you are having a memorial service at a church or other setting, you may want to have them delivered to a designated person’s home. There will likely not be anyone at these places to be there when the flowers are delivered and hold them for safekeeping.
Paying for Funeral Costs
When it comes to paying for funeral costs, the obligation is typically placed on the deceased person. Family members and friends are not required to pay for the funeral. The deceased person’s assets are sold off or released from financial institutions to pay for the expenses. This is why asking what is a estate planning lawyer and acquiring one is important. They can help you navigate through the process and locate resources to cover the costs. The average price of a funeral can be up to $12,000, which doesn’t include cemetery or grave marker fees.
The funds for funeral costs can be obtained in a variety of ways. Life insurance is one of the most common ways to pay for a funeral. If the loved one has a pre-paid funeral plan, the cost will already be covered. If the deceased person doesn’t have these assets, many family members ask the general public for donations through crowdfunding. There may also be federal assistance programs and charitable organizations that can help pay for funeral costs.
Secure Personal Property
After a loved one dies, you will want to secure their home and vehicle by making sure everything is locked up with different locks to prevent theft. If there are pets, arrange for someone to take care of them until you can find them another home. Secure any valuables such as jewelry in a safe or security deposit box. You may want to have a trusted family member act as a witness while you are securing the property to avoid any potential disputes with other family members. Make an inventory list of all the deceased person’s assets.
Locate Important Documents
You will want to gather all the deceased person’s documents as soon as possible. Look for a will, real estate property deeds, mortgage documents, and vehicle titles and registrations. You may also want to collect any insurance policy paperwork. Collect paperwork regarding any financial accounts or records. You may also need usernames and passwords for computers and online accounts.
Make sure to secure copies of the death certificate as well. You’ll need at least 10 of them to close accounts. Fees for certified copies can cost $20 or more, so you may want to contact companies of the deceased person’s financial accounts first. This will help you determine who needs a certified copy and who is fine with a photocopy so you don’t spend more than you have to. Looking up what is a estate planning lawyer and obtaining their services can help you determine what items you will need.
Contact an Estate Lawyer
If you’re wondering, what is a estate lawyer? It’s an attorney that can help you make all the necessary financial decisions legally in regards to a person’s property and obligations. You may want to contact an estate lawyer immediately, even if you have a will. If things aren’t done correctly, you can open yourself up to liability. The estate planning lawyer can help protect you from any potential legal battles that may occur with other family members. The lawyer can determine if probate is necessary and ensure all necessary legal documents are filed with the courts.
The probate process can be incredibly lengthy and complex. The assets of the deceased person will need to be located and valued. Any outstanding bills or other legal obligations will need to be paid. Assets will need to be divided appropriately. It’s wise to have legal counsel rather than trying to do it on your own. Knowing what is a estate planning lawyer and knowing what they are capable of handling is essential because each state has its own probate process.
Obtain a Tax ID Number from the IRS
When a person dies, their Social Security number becomes invalid. In order to be able to authorize activities on behalf of the estate, you will need to notify the IRS and obtain a new tax ID number. You can apply for an EIN tax ID number online or by mail. This will help you be able to handle any tax obligations of the deceased person along with other financial account matters. Once you answer the question what is a estate planning lawyer and hire one, you may need this number for them as well.
Cancel Services and Close Accounts
Following a person’s death, any accounts they had will need to be closed. This includes household utilities, Internet services, cell phone service, and subscriptions. Notify the Social Security Administration to cancel checks if the person was receiving benefits. Close accounts with banks, insurance companies, credit card companies, and financial advisors. Cancel the person’s driver’s license and send a copy of the death certificate to all three credit agencies.
To prevent fraud and identity theft, you may also want to close all email accounts and either delete or memorialize the deceased person’s social media accounts. You may be required to provide your own ID as well as a copy of the death certificate. Contact each company to find out their requirements.
File and Pay Tax Returns
You will need to file a federal tax return on behalf of the deceased person for the portion of the year up to their passing. A federal estate income tax return will also need to be filed covering the time of passing up to the end of the year. This estate income tax return is required for every year until the estate is officially closed. State income tax returns for the individual and the estate may also be required.
There may be estate taxes that may need to be paid, depending on the amount of the estate. They are usually only required for large estates, as the exemptions amounts are set high. This is another reason to figure out what is a estate planning lawyer and hire one once you find out. The lawyer may be able to help you understand the tax laws in the applicable state. A handful of states also require a federal inheritance tax on the amounts beneficiaries receive from the state.
Planning the Estate Sale
If you plan on selling items from the deceased person’s home, there are steps you will need to take to plan the estate sale. You may want to look up online what is a estate planning lawyer first and find one in your local area. An estate planning lawyer can set up an executor to administer the state if there isn’t one already named in the will. When it comes to planning the estate, be aware that professional estate companies can take around 35% of the proceeds of the sale as their fee. You may opt to plan the estate sale yourself if you need the money.
Planning an estate sale takes time and you may want to recruit as many people as possible to help you. If there are valuable items, you may want to consider hiring a professional appraiser to help you determine a price. Separate sentimental items that family members are more likely to want. Let them pick out items even if they may have to pay for them at a later date through probate.
Preparing for the Estate Sale
There are a few things you need to do in order to prepare for an estate sale. Hire residential mowing services to clean up the landscaping around the home. Clean the home thoroughly. Throw out food, check the mail, and water plants. Any items that you don’t want to sell should be stored at another location. You can hire a moving and storage company to help you transport heavier items to a storage facility.
Place advertisements in as many places as possible. There are many local groups on Facebook where you can post about the sale and sites such as Craiglist where you can let people know the details. During the estate sale, display items in the home where they are commonly used. Keep small valuable items such as watches and jewelry near the door under the watchful eye of a trusted friend or family member so they won’t get stolen.
When you’re grieving, it can be hard to focus on all the tasks that need to be done. Enlist the help from family and friends as well as an estate planning attorney to help you handle all the personal and legal details. Whether you need to know what is a estate planning lawyer or just need assistance filing all the necessary paperwork, there are plenty of resources available to help you. Outside of the funeral, many of the responsibilities required after a loved one passes can take months or a few years to complete. Take as much time as you need to handle all these affairs and take plenty of time for yourself to grieve the death of your loved one.