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First Steps After a Loved One Dies 

David W. Walker Attorney At Law Sept. 29, 2022

Woman with lily flowers and coffin at funeral.Losing a loved one can be heartbreaking and emotional. You may experience different intense and overwhelming emotions, including emptiness, shock, sadness, or regret. However, while grieving your loved one’s demise, there are some crucial duties and rites you need to perform. These include obtaining the death certificate, informing other survivors, closing bank accounts, paying final taxes and bills, planning their funeral, and administering the estate. Dealing with grief while holding these responsibilities can be absolutely overwhelming, so reach out to an empathetic and skilled attorney to make this process as smooth as possible for you.  

At David W. Walker Attorney At Law, I have the knowledge, resources, and diligence to advise, assist, and guide surviving family members of the decedent during such a grieving period. As an experienced Missouri estate planning attorney, I can evaluate your unique situation and enlighten you about the next steps to take following the death of your loved one. My firm is proud to serve clients across Columbia, Boonville, Jefferson City, and Fulton, Missouri. 

What Is the First Thing I Should Do When a
Loved One Dies? 

The first step you should take when a loved one dies in Missouri is to get a legal pronouncement of death. You will use this to obtain the death certificate and the letters testamentary – which can be used to: 

  • Arrange for a funeral 

  • Start the probate process 

  • Claim life insurance 

  • Access bank accounts and financial records 

  • Access pension benefits 

  • Settle the decedent’s estate and final affairs 

Under Missouri law, you must file the death certificate with the local registrar within five (5) days of the person’s death and before final disposition. Hence, make sure you obtain the legal pronouncement of death and death certificate as soon as possible – from a funeral home or medical examiner. 

Who Do I Need to Notify? 

Get in touch with the surviving family members, friends, dependents, and close relatives to inform them about the death. Also, notify any coworkers, employers, professional relationships, insurance providers, brokers, social security offices, banks, and other service providers. 

What Funeral Arrangements Should Be Made?  

Find out if the decedent included a “disposition of final remains” document with their estate plan. This is where you will find information about their final wishes and how they want their body to be treated following their demise. If available, you have a duty to honor your deceased loved one’s exact wishes. 

However, if the death was sudden with no prior conversation about funeral and burial arrangements, you must decide on the disposition of the final remains. The possible options include cremation, burial, whole-body donation, or organ donation. Above all, make sure your deceased loved one gets a befitting ceremony. 

What About Children and Pets?  

If the deceased left behind minor children, pets, close relatives, or other dependents, make appropriate arrangements for their care and welfare. During such a grieving period, they need all the love, support, and assistance they can get. Be sure to do the best you can not to make them feel lonely. 

Recover the decedent’s last will and testament or trust documents to check if there are provisions for guardianship and caretaker. If the person dies without a will or estate plan (dying intestate), the Missouri courts will decide the best arrangement for their surviving minor children and pets. 

How Is the Will or Trust Handled?  

Locate the estate plan established prior to their demise and identify the personal representative or executor. They will administer the decedent’s estate, settle their final affairs, collect and evaluate estate assets, pay taxes and debts, and distribute remaining assets to rightful beneficiaries according to the provisions of the will or trust documents. 

Do I Need an Attorney? 

The death of a family member can be a difficult one to deal with. Locating and informing surviving loved ones, planning for burial and funeral, handling the will and trust document, administering the decedent’s estate, and navigating probate proceedings usually pose several challenges. 

However, it is never advisable to manage these tasks all alone – especially while grieving – without experienced guidance. Therefore, you need to reach out to an experienced attorney immediately to help you with estate administration tasks and other essential activities when a loved one dies. 

Get Personal & Compassionate Counsel You Need 

Settling a deceased loved one’s final affairs usually involves several complex processes. You may face various challenges when closing bank accounts, paying final bills and taxes, planning for their funeral and burial, or settling their final affairs. Regardless, you don’t have to handle everything all by yourself. An experienced estate planning attorney can offer you the personalized and knowledgeable guidance you need to navigate key financial and legal matters. 

I have devoted my career to providing outstanding legal services and guiding clients through the complexities of settling a loved one’s final affairs. As your legal counsel, I can enlighten you about the necessary steps to take following your family member’s death and support you every step of the way. Also, I will outline a detailed checklist of all the tasks you need to carry out and guide you through the estate administration process diligently and efficiently. 

Contact my firm – David W. Walker Attorney At Law – today to schedule a simple consultation with a trusted estate planning lawyer. I can offer you the compassionate counsel, assistance, and confidence you need to navigate crucial decisions and eventually move forward. My firm is proud to serve clients across Columbia, Boonville, Jefferson City, and Fulton, Missouri.