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Cemetery Gravestones

FAQs: What Needs to Be Done When Someone Dies 

Redding Law Office Nov. 14, 2022

No one is ever quite prepared for what to do when a loved one dies. In addition to dealing with your grief, you’ll also have to think of practical matters such as arranging the funeral, obtaining a death certificate, and executing the will. In times like this, it can be extremely helpful to work with an estate planning attorney to ensure you’re not only tying up the loose ends of your loved one’s life, but also following all pertinent state and local laws regarding their estate. 

For skilled and compassionate guidance, call Redding Law Office. From her office in Southlake, Texas, Attorney Chelsea Redding is also able to represent clients in Tarrant County and Denton County as well as the surrounding cities of Flower Mound, Keller, and Colleyville. 

1. What is the first thing I should do when a loved one dies?  

One of the most important steps to take when a loved one dies is to obtain legal pronouncement of death. You’ll want to make copies of this as you’ll need it when executing the will to plan a funeral or gain access to financial or legal accounts. 

2. Who do I need to notify?  

You’ll first want to notify all immediate friends and family members who can help inform others about the death. You next need to contact the deceased’s employer and coworkers, as well as their bank, the social security office, and any other financial institutions they have accounts with. If you’re the executor or administrator of the will, you need to contact all named beneficiaries as well as post notices for creditors to pursue debt payments before the estate can be distributed to any heirs. 

3. What funeral arrangements should be made?  

Ideally, your loved one has made funeral arrangements or made their preferences clear in a will or other estate planning document. However, many times people die without a will in place (known as dying intestate), and you’ll have to work with those closest to them to determine what kind of ceremony they would have liked or how they would want to dispose of their remains. It can be helpful to hire a local funeral director who can oversee the process and ease the burden of planning the event. 

4. What about children and pets?  

If there are any minor children or pets in the home when someone dies, they must be helped and found care for immediately. Ideally, this is with a trusted friend or family member. Once the will is read, it should include a provision that assigns a legal guardian. 

5. How is the will or trust handled?  

If there’s a will, there should be a named executor. If there’s a trust, there will already be a trustee who’s been named the owner of certain assets. In most cases, a will must go through the legal process of probate which means the executor will have to work closely with the county judge for several months as the will is “proven” in court. Many executors choose to hire a probate attorney to help with this process. If there’s a living trust, the trustee can simply transfer the assets to the named beneficiaries once they obtain a death certificate, and they do not have to go through the courts to do this. 

6. Do I need an attorney?  

Technically, you do not need to hire a lawyer. However, you will find working with an attorney to be immensely helpful during this difficult process. A thoughtful and knowledgeable attorney can not only make this process less stressful for the surviving friends and family members, but they can also help with probate administration and ensure the legal aspects of settling the estate and addressing past due taxes and debt are handled correctly. 

Personalized Counsel at Every Stage  

If you’re in the Southlake, Texas area and would like to speak with an experienced attorney about the recent death of a loved one, turn to Redding Law Office. Call Attorney Chelsea Redding today to set up a one-on-one consultation.