FAQs: Steps to Take When a Loved One Passes Away

June 14, 2023

Losing a loved one is one of the hardest things we will ever have to go through. Unfortunately, it is a reality we all face at some point in our lives. During this time of grief and confusion, it can be overwhelming to try and figure out what needs to be done next.

As an estate planning and probate attorney, I help grieving families settle the affairs of their deceased loved ones in Columbus, Ohio, and throughout Central Ohio. I am here to guide you through this difficult time and ensure that your loved one’s family, estate, and other affairs are taken care of.

What Should You Do When Your Loved One Dies?

The loss of a loved one can trigger intense feelings of grief. However, while you grieve your loss, you also need to know what steps to take from a legal perspective.

What is the first thing I should do when my loved one dies?

In terms of handling legal matters, the first thing you should do after your loved one dies is get a legal pronouncement of death. Typically, if a person dies in a hospital or nursing home, the facility’s staff will handle this step. After getting a legal pronouncement of death, you should take care of notifying the appropriate parties.

Who do I need to notify of my loved one’s death?

Notify close family members, friends, the employer, and coworkers first. If your loved one was receiving social security, contact the Social Security Administration to stop benefits, and if they had life insurance, contact the insurance company. Contacting government agencies and other appropriate parties can be a daunting and time-consuming task, which is why you might want to get qualified assistance from an attorney.

What funeral arrangements should be made?

Funeral arrangements can vary based on the deceased person’s religion, culture, and personal preferences. However, before making any funeral arrangements, you should check if the decedent had any estate planning documents, including a will, that detailed their final wishes. If you are not sure whether or not your loved one had a will or other estate planning documents, contact their attorney. You can also search a will registry, look in your loved one’s bank or safety deposit box, and talk to their friends and other family members.

What happens to the deceased person’s children and pets?

Depending on the circumstances, custody of children and pets will be handed over to someone in charge of the deceased’s estate. If the deceased person created a will in their lifetime, the document might contain information regarding the arrangements for their children and pets.

Do I need to get death certificates?

Yes, you will need to obtain a death certificate. You may also need additional copies of the certificate to settle any legal matters such as bank accounts and life insurance policies. According to the official website of the city of Columbus, Ohio, you must pay a $25.00 fee for a certified copy of the death certificate. If you order the death certificate online, there is an added fee of $9.95.

How is the will or trust handled?

If your loved one had a will or trust in place, contact their attorney or executor. If they did not have a will, the state will determine how their estate will be handled based on the intestate succession laws. Probate may be required to legally transfer assets to the rightful heirs. If your loved one did not have an attorney, you might want to hire one to ensure that the decedent’s estate planning documents, including a will and trust, are handled properly and according to their wishes.

Do I need an attorney?

Hiring an attorney may help navigate the legal process, especially if disputes arise over assets or estate administration. An estate planning and probate attorney can assist you with the administration of your loved one’s estate and will walk you through the necessary steps after the tragic death in your family.

Don’t Go Through This Difficult Time Alone

The attorneys within KJK’s Estate Planning practice groups are here to provide counsel to families of those who pass away and ensure that all matters are addressed in a proper, professional, and timely manner. If you have recently lost your loved one, we can help you navigate through this difficult time, allowing you to grieve and mourn your loss.

Get in touch today with Gregory Williams (GLW@kjk.com; 614.427.5746) to schedule a consultation and discuss your case.