Top 10 Things Not to Do When Someone Dies

 

Often, when a person dies, there will be one person who steps up to handle everything. Sometimes this is a spouse, a parent, a child, a close friend, a grandchild, or some other relative. Maybe you’ve just lost someone you love, and you’re the person who has stepped up to handle everything. Maybe you’ve just lost someone you love, and you are not the person who is handling everything, but you want to help the person who is. You want to make sure things are done correctly, fairly, and most importantly, legally. You’re trying to avoid conflict, hassle, and stress. You want to save time and money. This article will help you make good decisions following the loss of a loved one. See our 10 tips for things you shouldn’t do after they’ve died:

 

1 – DO NOT tell their bank

This may seem counterintuitive, but telling the bank prematurely can result in a host of problems that will take a considerable amount of time, money, and legal support to fix. First, you should meet with an attorney who is a Certified Specialist in Estate Planning, Trust and Probate Law to develop a plan of action to minimize your costs, obligations, and liabilities. If you contact the bank before consulting an attorney, you risk account freezes, which could severely delay auto-payments and direct deposits and most importantly mortgage payments.

 

2 – DO NOT wait to call Social Security

You should call Social Security right away to tell them about the death of your loved one. Delaying Social Security notification can result in overpayments, legal obligations, fines and fees. Social Security will not let extra payments slide, and they will find a way to get their money back. Save yourself the hassle later on – call Social Security immediately.

 

3 – DO NOT wait to call their Pension

If the decedent was receiving pension benefits, it is crucial that you call their pension as soon as possible. Just like social security, delaying your notification to their pension can result in overpayments, legal obligations, fines and fees. Their pension has a legal right to collect those overpayments, and they will find a way to make sure they get their money back. Save yourself the trouble – call their pension right away. (Side Note: this advice applies only to pension benefits, not other retirement accounts. Other retirement accounts should be treated like bank accounts.)

 

4 – DO NOT tell the utility companies

Until you’ve met with a an attorney who is a Certified Specialist in Estate Planning, Trust and Probate Law in order to develop a sound legal strategy for handling your loved one’s estate, you should wait to tell the utility companies. Telling them too soon can result in power and water being shut down. Imagine trying to sort the rest of their estate in the dark with no water access; no fun for anyone. Getting the power turned back on will be more than annoying, so make sure you do not notify the power company when someone has died.

 

5 – DO NOT give away or promise any items to loved ones

Whether or not there is a will or trust in place, you should not be distributing your loved one’s assets until you’ve met with an attorney who is a Certified Specialist in Estate Planning, Trust and Probate Law. The laws surrounding a decedent’s estate and assets are complicated, and you will be held financially and legally responsible for any mistakes you make during the process. The best way to avoid complications, fighting with family, and legal proceedings is to wait until after you meet with an attorney to distribute family heirlooms and any other possessions. If someone mentions the decedent said they could have something when they died, tell them you’ll write it down and check to see if it’s in the will or trust when you meet with an attorney.

 

6 – DO NOT sell any of their personal assets

Just like giving their personal assets away, selling their personal assets can result in legal obstacles later on. The way the law will allow for their personal assets to be handled depends on a variety of circumstances – whether a will or trust was in place, who has the right to make these decisions, etc. Plus, there are the complications associated with correctly distributing funds from the sale of their personal assets. Until you’ve met with an attorney who is a Certified Specialist in Estate Planning, Trust and Probate Law, you should not be selling any of their personal assets.

 

7 – DO NOT drive their vehicles

Since the owner of the insurance policy has died, the insurance may not cover anyone or any accidents after their death. It is best that you wait to drive, loan out, sell, or give away their vehicles until after you’ve met with an attorney who is a Certified Specialist in Estate Planning, Trust and Probate Law and implemented a plan to handle their estate and assets.

 

8 – DO NOT allow other people to move in to their house

Although it may be tempting to help a loved one by letting them move into the decedent’s house until everything is finalized, it actually puts you at risk legally and financially. Legally speaking, the people living there would have to pay rent that is distributed appropriately to the estate and the beneficiaries. Plus, if they decide to cause a stink later, you could be setting yourself up for a nasty eviction situation that could crumble your family relationships. Wait until you’ve spoken with an attorney who is a Certified Specialist in Estate Planning, Trust and Probate Law before you decide to let anyone move into their home.

 

9 – DO NOT let their homeowner’s insurance lapse

Whether the house is still occupied or vacant, you want to make sure there is no lapse in their homeowner’s insurance. Usually a home is the biggest asset that someone has, and protecting it is important. You don’t want to lose their biggest asset to fire, flood, natural disaster, or some other accident. Make sure their biggest asset is protected.

 

10 – DO NOT wait to handle things

Delaying the process, handling things incorrectly, or not handling them at all can result in significant financial and legal obligations, responsibilities, and troubles. Meeting with an attorney who is a Certified Specialist in Estate Planning, Trust and Probate Law within 1-2 months following their death is the best thing you can do to protect yourself legally and financially. During this time, you can search for estate plan documents and gather any life insurance documents, bank statements, retirement account information, and bills as they arrive in the mail. A qualified attorney will help you handle their estate in a way that saves you money, time, and stress. Even if you decide not to hire an attorney, it is important that you at least talk with one to make sure you have a sound plan in place for handling their estate.

 

 

Deciding what to do with the personal assets and estate of a loved one who has passed away can be stressful and confusing. Hopefully this list brings you a sense of direction as you wade through the task at hand. Finding help, in the form of legal guidance, is one of the best things you can do to reduce your liability during this process. Consulting an attorney who is a Certified Specialist in Estate Planning, Trust and Probate Law will save you time and money, and bring you peace of mind.