Contributed by Jenna Fogleman
When a family member or other loved one dies, grief and shock can sometimes be overwhelming. The last thing most people want to think about is making phone calls or funeral arrangements. Some things do not need to be done immediately, but there are some steps that should be taken soon after the loss of your loved one. We hope the following will help facilitate this process during a stressful and emotional time.
· In the immediate minutes and hours after your loved one passes away, you do not need to do anything. It is important to give yourself time and call those who presence will be comforting.
· As soon as you can, you should obtain a legal pronouncement of death by a doctor or hospice nurse so that a death certificate may be prepared. If no one is present who can make an official pronouncement of death, the body may be taken to the emergency room where a doctor can make the declaration.
· Make arrangements for the body to be picked up, typically by a funeral home. If your loved one died in a hospital or nursing facility, the staff may be able to make those arrangements for you. Your loved one may have already chosen a funeral home and made funeral plans, but if not, the choice of a funeral home will be made by family members.
· Notify family members, friends, and your loved one’s employer.
· If necessary, arrange for care for any dependent children, adults, and pets in accordance with your loved one’s will or nomination of guardian, which should address those issues. If there was no will or guardianship nomination, you may have to request that a court issue an emergency order to ensure that any children or dependent adults are properly cared for and protected.
· Make arrangements to lock up your loved one’s house and car, and if the home will remain vacant, notify the police or the landlord to keep a closer eye on it. A friend or family could also regularly check for mail or phone messages, clean out perishable food, and water plants.
· Find out if your loved one made pre-arrangements for a funeral or memorial service, and if not, ask a family member or friend to help you make those arrangements. If your family member was a member of the military, let the funeral home know if you would like a military funeral and it can make those arrangements. Also, prepare an obituary and send it to the local newspaper and any other newspapers in which you would like for it to appear.
Once you’ve taken care of these initial concerns, it is time to begin the estate or trust settlement process–also called probate or trust administration. Although taking care of some aspects of administration on your own may seem simple, this process can actually be quite complex, and small mistakes can lead to a major headache down the road. It is important to contact an experienced probate and trust administration attorney to help you with the process, as well as any other legal matters that may arise during this difficult and emotional time. Contact us as soon as you can, and we will help guide you through the legal process so you and your family members can focus on moving through grief toward healing.