The first three steps which should be taken after the death of a loved one are to make the funeral arrangements, secure the house and find the important papers. In her article in The Wall Street Journal titled “Steps for Heirs to Take After a Death”, Jilian Mincer discusses why these three steps are so important.
After the funeral has taken place, family members should secure the home if it is now empty. Changing the locks and adding a buglar alarm should be considered. Valuables such as jewelry should be moved to a safe deposit box or some other secure place. If items are moved, however, a list should be kept of where things were. This might be needed if the deceased’s will identifies objects by location. For example, the will may say that gold jewelry in the top dresser drawer goes to a specific person.
The third step is to find the important papers. These are the most recent will, stock certificates, investment account information and insurance policies. It is sometimes helpful to look at the most recent tax return for references to assets of the estate. In addition, if the deceased was working, check with the employer regarding benefits like life insurance policies and 401(k) plans. Also, ask the funeral director for 10 certified copies of the death certificate which will be needed when transferring stocks and other assets and when filing for life insurance proceeds.
Consult your estate planning attorney for further information.