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You Lost A Loved One. What Comes Next?

If you are reading this blog post and recently lost a loved one, we would like to offer our condolences. Losing a loved one is immensely difficult, and often, we struggle to capture our emotions fully with words. 

It is understandable and expected that you will be filled with sorrow and countless other emotions during this time. Know that with time, you will process these feelings and move forward.

For those who have never lost a spouse, parent, or someone for whom you must now manage their estate, understanding what comes next is an unknown process. We hope this blog post will illuminate the path forward for you as you navigate this unfamiliar route. Know that we are here for you, and so are others. 

So, let us hold your hand and give you some guidelines on what to do next. While these steps are somewhat chronological, please note that depending on the situation, some may need to be completed before others.

Scenic pathway wandering the mountains at sunset, with the quote by Andy Stanley stating, "Everybody ends up somewhere in life... blessed are those who end up somewhere on purpose."

Notify authorities

The first step when a loved one passes is to notify authorities. If your loved one died in a medical facility, they should be able to help with this process and later help you procure a certificate of death. 

You should contact 911 if they pass away elsewhere, such as at home or in public. Once the first responders have completed their work, you can ask them questions and inquire how to obtain a certificate of death in your municipality.

Notify close family and friends

The second step after the passing of a close loved one is to notify their/your immediate loved ones who are family and friends. These people will help support you through this challenging time and can help assist you in the coming steps. 

While these conversations will be difficult, it is important to share the passing of your loved one and to know that these people share your grief, too.

Review their will and estate planning documents

The third step is to review any will and estate planning documents your loved one established before passing to ensure you honor their wishes for handling their dependents, body, and estate. If they did not have any documents in place, you and other close individuals to the person must decide how to handle their remains. 

Find care for dependents and pets

If your parent or sibling passed away and they had dependents or pets, you should follow any guidance they established in their estate planning documents. If there are no plans, you should coordinate with other close loved ones to find a temporary solution for dependents and pets until more formal plans are established and implemented.

Find a funeral home, crematorium, or donation organization

Once you have established whether the loved one's body is to be buried, cremated, or donated to a medical or science educational organization, it is time to contact the necessary facility or institution to arrange the pick up of your loved one. 

While this is a difficult step, take your time to grieve and know that the feelings you are having are normal, understandable, and warranted.

Notify employer(s)

If your loved one was working at the time of their passing, you will need to contact their employer to notify them of their passing.

Ensure keys and property are accounted for

While navigating this process, you need to ensure that your loved one's home, vehicle, and other personal belongings are secure and that no one else can access them until the disbursement of their estate happens.

Write an obituary and arrange a memorial service

After arranging for your loved one's pickup, it is time to work with others who were close to them to write an obituary and arrange a memorial service, honoring any wishes they left in estate planning documents. If you are working with a funeral home, they can assist with planning a service.

Find a cemetery

In addition to arranging a memorial service, you will need to find a cemetery or spread your loved one's ashes in accordance with their wishes. 

Obtain several copies of their death certificate

Depending on where your loved one passed, you can obtain a certificate of death through the help of the hospital they passed in, the funeral director, or your local city hall. You will need many copies of this document for various purposes, so we suggest acquiring eight to ten.

Hire an attorney to help you navigate probate court

Even with a will, you will need to go through probate court to provide all of the legal documents your loved one crafted. We suggest using the attorney who helped craft your loved one's legal estate. If your loved one has no legal documents, the need to hire a probate attorney increases. 

Notify banks, financial institutions, and disburse assets

You should now begin notifying banks, financial institutions, financial advisors, life insurance companies, the Social Security Administration, and other institutions of your loved one by providing them with copies of their death certificate. 

Some institutions will then transfer assets to the respective beneficiaries named on the account. If no named beneficiary exists, the probate court will decide where the assets go. Credit card accounts and various insurance policies will need to be closed/collected. Additionally, you should notify the major credit bureaus so that your loved one's identity is not stolen.

Please do not wait to notify the Social Security Administration, as stopping payments is prudent. Any payments received after your loved one's passing will need to be returned. To learn how this works and start the process, please visit this Government website: Reporting The Death of a Social Security Beneficiary.

Once probate is settled, you must distribute the remaining assets that belonged to your loved one. You also need to contact their State's voter registration agency to have their registration closed.

Close their digital lives

In addition to disbursing your loved one's assets, you should close their email accounts and notify social media companies of their passing so their accounts can be closed.

Losing a loved one is hard

Losing a loved one is a difficult ordeal, and you will experience many emotions throughout this process. If you need help, lean into those you trust or seek professional care. However, know that many resources exist to help you along this journey. We hope this blog post has been educational. If you need help finding an attorney who can help you navigate the passing of a loved one in Minnesota, please reach out to us so we can connect you with a professional we trust.

We wish you all the best,

The Lundeen Abrams Team

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