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

After Funeral ConsolingThis is the second of three articles addressing the topic of what needs to be done when a spouse or loved one passes away. My last article addressed the immediate things that need to be done prior to the decedent’s funeral. This article and my third article address those things that don’t typically need to be done until after the decedent’s funeral. If the funeral is delayed, however, there should be no similar delay in addressing the matters that need to be addressed.

The person acting should do the following:

  • Locate decedent's important papers, including:
    • Legal documents including decedent's will and/or trust, and any other pertinent estate planning documents.
    • Life insurance policies.
    • Annuities.
    • Social Security card.
    • Tax returns.
    • Bank and broker statements.
    • Investment account statements.
    • Stock certificates, bonds and mutual funds.
    • Pension/retirement plan statements.
    • Motor vehicle titles.
    • Corporate stock certificates, limited liability company membership certificates or other documents evidencing ownership in a business or businesses.
    • Real estate deeds, land contracts, mortgage documents and promissory notes (including notes evidencing monies owed to decedent and monies owed by decedent).
    • Car insurance policy.
    • Homeowner's insurance policy.
  • Obtain copies (10-20) of decedent's Death Certificate.
  • Locate the names and contact information of the decedent's professional advisors.
  • Locate the decedent's user names and passwords to access computers and online accounts, as well as decedent's cell phone and other electronic devices.
  • Determine if there is a safe deposit box and if so, who has access to it.
  • If the decedent was employed, contact the employer's benefit's department to determine whether any death benefits are available and if so, the names of the beneficiaries who are to receive such benefits.
  • Contact decedent's financial advisor(s) and advise them of decedent's death.

The remaining matters that need to be addressed after a person dies will be covered in Part 3.


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, Powers of Attorney


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Survivor's Checklist:

Due to the shock of the death of a spouse or a loved one, the steps of what needs to be done first can be an overwhelming process for the survivor(s). To aid in the breakdown and to act as a tool amidst the emotional days ahead, estate planning Jonathan "Jay" David has assembled a "Survivor's Checklist" of some of the important things that need to be addressed when a spouse or loved one dies.


Resources and Support for Older Adults Living Alone: A Comprehensive Guide (2024):

Below is a comprehensive guide of resources for older adults living alone, empowering them to thrive independently and access essential services. This guide was created and provided with permission by the National Council on Aging (NCOA).

Resources and Support for Older Adults Living Alone: A Comprehensive Guide (2024) (ncoa.org)


Elder Organizer Tool:

Foster Swift has created a free ‘Elder Organizer’ digital notebook to provide seniors and their caretakers with a toolkit that helps organize doctors’ appointments, medications, and more that can be shared online. The tools below are also available on the Elder Law Resources page.

*For those trying to access these links by smartphone, it is best practice to copy/open the link in a separate tab and download the free Google Sheets app from Google Play or the Apple Store.

Using the Elder Law OrganizerMedication & Appointments ButtonVisitor Log & Photos/Media ButtonPrivate Care Schedule ButtonElder Law Resources Button


COVID-19 Checklist:

For adult children responsible for their elderly parents and other senior caretakers concerned about protecting loved ones as the COVID-19 pandemic continues, below is a free downloadable checklist of steps to follow to prepare for any possible COVID-19-related illnesses among the most-vulnerable.

Download Button: Checklist


E-book Covers Estate Planning Essentials

Estate Planning Cover

Engaging in estate planning, while essential, is often emotional and generates many questions. How do I protect my spouse and my children if something happens to me? What happens if I become disabled before I pass on? Who will take care of my pet after I'm gone? How do I pass my business on to my children? These questions and more are addressed in Jonathan David’s recently updated e-book, “Estate Planning: You Have to Start in Order to Finish.”

Need Help Planning?

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For more tools, visit our Elder Law Resource page for additional content. Click here to view/download the Foster Swift estate planning brochure to see what our experienced team of attorneys can do for you.