Peacock Tales • Spring 2011


What To Do After The Funeral

by Susan Key

When a loved one dies, the family needs time to grieve . . . but thoughts about what tasks lie ahead are often daunting. The attorneys in our estate department often receive inquiries from family and close friends after the funeral, and sometimes even before, asking what needs to be done. Following is a list of some of the steps you must take when someone dies. We hope that this information will help you to focus on the task ahead. Please realize that, except for funeral arrangements, there isn't any need to rush; first you must cope with the loss of a loved one.

Notifying Others

After contacting a funeral home, the most immediate task is to notify family members and close friends about the funeral arrangements. Later, it will be necessary to notify the employer and to inquire about final paychecks, vacation time, sick time and other benefits. Also, contact the people and firms which were providing regular services. Stop any subscriptions, unnecessary utilities, cancel any automatic bill paying services for the deceased, cancel credit cards, and notify the post office to forward mail to a responsible party. The Social Security Administration and Veterans Administration may need to be notified to stop monthly payments; the funeral director may be able to assist with this.

Locating Important Papers

You may need to search for the will. Check with the family attorney (if known) to determine the location of the original. If the original will is in a safe deposit box, the bank is required to do a limited will search and deliver the will to the executor. The safe deposit box cannot be completely emptied until after an inventory is done for the Department of Revenue. Before an estate can be opened, you will need an original death certificate to take to the courthouse.

Other important papers to look for include:

  • Life insurance policies or statements
  • Pension, IRA or retirement statements
  • Income tax returns for several years
  • Stocks and investment account statements
  • Motor vehicle titles
  • Deeds and Leases
  • Bank statements and checkbook registers
  • Savings bonds

Applying for Benefits

The funeral director will often assist in stopping monthly Social Security payments. If a payment is made via direct deposit after the date of death, it must be returned. Social Security monthly benefits are available to the surviving spouse, dependent children and certain disabled children. Veterans' benefits may also be available to the surviving spouse. Insurance agents should be contacted to identify insurance policies and to obtain claim forms.

Administering the Estate

After you have received a death certificate, you should then contact your Peacock Keller attorney to first determine if there are sufficient assets to "probate" and if so, to begin the estate administration process. DO NOTpay any of the decedent's bills, except those required for the funeral, until after consulting with us.

If there is a will, a death certificate and Petition for Grant of Letters will be taken to the courthouse where the Executor or Executrix will be appointed. If there is no will, those persons who qualify to serve as the administrator must agree as to who will serve. Those individuals who do not serve must sign a Renunciation form in favor of the individual who will serve as the administrator.

Once you are appointed, our estate department will guide you through the estate process from beginning to end.

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Peacock Keller, LLP • 70 East Beau Street • Washington PA 15301 • 724-222-4520