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Legal-Ease: Steps for When a Loved One Passes Away - Part Three

Placing Flowers on GraveThis is my third and final article addressing what needs to be done after a person passes away. Part 1 addressed what a person needs to do prior to the decedent’s funeral. Part 2 addressed those things that don’t typically need to be done until after the decedent’s funeral, so long as the funeral is not delayed. This column continues that discussion.

The person acting should do the following:

  • Determine if there are any life insurance benefits available through existing credit cards.
  • Cancel decedent's credit cards, automatic bill payments, club memberships, car lease, cell phone plan, magazine subscriptions, prescriptions, etc.
  • Cancel home services that are no longer needed such as cable, internet, telephone, newspaper, trash pick-up, etc.
  • Cancel decedent's voter's registration.
  • Cancel decedent's membership in organizations, professional or otherwise.
  • Cancel decedent's social media accounts.
  • Cancel doctors and/or other appointments that have been scheduled for the decedent.
  • Contact the three major credit agencies (Equifax, Experian and Transunion) to report decedent's death.
  • Notify decedent's creditors and pay any undisputed bills for which decedent's estate is legally responsible*.

*If either a probate administration or a trust administration is determined to be necessary, then the personal representative or trustee, as the case may be, should be the one to handle the payment of (or dispute) decedent's debts.

  • If you are the decedent's spouse or a dependent child, contact the Social Security Administration to inquire about the one-time death benefit as well as survivor benefits.
  • Contact auto and homeowners insurance companies to report the decedent's death and
    update the coverage of those policies.
  • If you are named as the beneficiary on the decedent's life insurance policy, annuity, IRA, 401k or any other investment, seek help in applying for those benefits.
  • If you have named the decedent as a beneficiary on any life insurance policy, annuity, IRA, 401k or any other investment, remove decedent and name someone else as beneficiary in his or her place.
  • Meet with decedent's attorney to review decedent's will and/or trust.
  • If it is determined that probate is necessary and you are the named personal representative, initiate probate administration with the attorney's help.
  • If no probate is required but there is a trust and you are the named trustee, then initiate trust administration with the attorney's help.
  • Consult with the decedent's business attorney regarding any business interests decedent owned.
  • Consult with decedent's tax professional regarding the filing of any necessary tax returns required for the tax year in which the decedent died.
  • Remove decedent's name from the title of any assets that were jointly titled between the decedent and you.
  • If you are the decedent's spouse, update your estate planning documents, removing the decedent as a beneficiary and a fiduciary, if necessary.

As previously noted, the person who has authority to act should retain legal counsel at the outset to help guide him or her through this process.


Jonathan J. David is a shareholder with Foster Swift Collins & Smith, PC and has extensive experience preparing a wide variety of lifetime and estate planning documents such as wills, trusts, durable powers of attorney for both financial and health care matters and living wills. Jonathan practices in the firm's Grand Rapids office:

Office - 1700 East Beltline, N.E., Suite 200 Grand Rapids, MI 49525
Phone - 616.726.2243
Email - jdavid@fosterswift.com 

THE INFORMATION CONTAINED IN THIS ARTICLE IS NOT TO BE CONSTRUED AS LEGAL OR TAX ADVICE OR LEGAL OR TAX REPRESENTATION AND SHOULD NOT BE RELIED UPON AS SUCH. FURTHER, THE INFORMATION PROVIDED IS NOT STATE SPECIFIC AND CERTAIN LAWS AND CUSTOMARY PRACTICES WILL VARY FROM STATE TO STATE. IF LEGAL OR TAX ADVICE OR LEGAL OR TAX REPRESENTATION IS DESIRED, PLEASE CONSULT WITH AN ATTORNEY.

Categories: Did you Know?, Estate Planning


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