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Important First Legal Steps After A Loved One Dies

Posted June 10, 2019 by Jamie Hamelburg and Janell Wheeler in Articles & Publications, Trusts & Estates Blog

In the midst of dealing with grief after a family member dies, figuring out the legal steps to take can be overwhelming. While many items can wait, two of them should be taken care of immediately.

An important step is to order death certificates. The funeral home should be able to assist you. We recommend asking for at least ten official copies which can be used later to probate the estate and to provide to entities like insurance companies, banks and investment companies.

You also will need to locate your family member’s Last Will and Testament, which is typically kept with an individuals important papers. If one can’t be located, you should call your family member’s attorney to see if one was prepared. The attorney may have the original or it may be stored at the local courthouse.

Occasionally a Will provides burial instructions, which is why it should be immediately located if possible. It also directs how assets are to be distributed and who will have custody over minor children. The Will appoints a person, referred to as the Personal Representative or Executor, who is responsible for administering the estate.

An attorney can assist the Personal Representative/Executor with filing the Will with the local courthouse and distributing the estate’s assets. The process can take many months and typically involves a number of court filings and notifications to creditors and heirs. However, this does not need to be undertaken in the immediate days following a person’s death.  The two main items that should be taken care of immediately are to order the death certificates and locate the Will.

If you need help with the probate process, or have questions prompted by the death of a loved one, please contact Jamie Kent Hamelburg or Janell Wheeler at Press, Dozier & Hamelburg.

Press, Dozier & Hamelburg partners with businesses to achieve their goals, and represents families and individuals, often when they are most vulnerable. Our attorneys deliver valuable insight and counsel in the areas of business law, employment law, litigation, commercial real estate, estate planning and administration, and business succession planning. We provide all of our clients with personal service, emphasizing responsiveness, sensitivity, and respect. We are located in Bethesda and serve Maryland, Virginia and Washington, DC. 


Note: The content in this Blog is for informational purposes only and should not be acted upon without first consulting legal counsel. It is not intended to constitute legal advice.