What to Do When Someone Dies

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Depending on your role there are many responsibilities when someone close to you dies. Be prepared when someone passes away with tips from an estate planning and probate lawyer in this free video on estate law.

Part of the Video Series: Estate Planning
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Video Transcript

What should you do when someone passes away? When someone dies? Well, it depends on what your role is. If you are a loved one, a family member, but not the spouse of the deceased, maybe you're an adult child of the deceased, you've got to always stop, look, and listen. Of course, funeral arrangements are important. Prior to funeral arrangements it might be a good idea to look around and see if the deceased left any instructions on how they wanted their funeral to be handled. Sometimes people make the mistake of putting their funeral instructions in their will, and the will is not found until after the funeral. Sometimes people make the mistake of putting their funeral instructions with their will in a safety deposit box that nobody even knows exists. And they find that safety deposit box with the will after the funeral. So, have the funeral instructions clear, assuming that they're done and accessible, and people need to know where those are at. The second thing that needs to happen after someone passes away, after funeral arrangements have begun, is to make sure the property is properly secure. By that I mean if it's now going to be an empty house, a vacant house, it might be a good idea--probably would be a very good idea to go ahead and change the locks. But again, if you're not the named executor in the will, or you don't have everybody's agreement to do this, you may be going off to do something that you don't have any authority to do, and you're going to get yourself in trouble and you're going to start a fight. So be careful about that. If you are the surviving spouse, you have the right to do that more than likely. If you are the named executor in the will, you have the right to do that more than likely, but you're not the executor until the court appoints you the executor. You're just kind of the nominee. You're the heir apparent, or the executor apparent. So you want to make sure you understand that you don't really have legal authority until you're appointed by the court. Secure the property, look for funeral instructions, take care of your family, make sure they're all right, then work on the details of actually getting the will to the court, getting to a lawyer, making sure things are started from a legal process perspective.

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