Steps to Take After a Loved One Passes Away

Rose with sunset symbolizing death, loss, estate planning and probate

Losing a loved one is among life’s most difficult challenges. While you and your family grieve your loss, it can be hard to focus on the steps to take after a loved one passes away. Getting assistance from an attorney can ease your burden and allow you to focus on taking care of yourself and your family during the bereavement process. The probate lawyers at Sloan Law Firm help families address all the legal matters that accompany probate and estate administration to give you peace of mind that all necessary tasks are completed in a timely manner.

First Steps to Take

The important, immediate task of notifying other family members and contacts can be shared among those closest to the deceased loved one. Before anyone makes final arrangements for your loved one, you should ascertain whether the decedent had an estate plan or specific documents expressing their final wishes. Those documents may even designate the person responsible for making the arrangements. If the documents are stored in a safe deposit box, you may need help from a lawyer to access the box.

In addition to making the final arrangements, you should immediately secure all the property of the deceased person, including personal property and real estate. You may need to cancel deliveries and subscriptions, ask the post office to hold mail, and accomplish other tasks to ensure that your loved one’s home and property are safe and secure.

You will need a copy of the death certificate to address legal matters relating to the estate. Typically, the funeral home can provide the necessary copies.

Steps in the First Few Weeks

In the first few weeks, you should address the initial legal matters relating to the estate. If the deceased person had an estate plan, those documents govern administration of the estate.

If there is a last will and testament, it likely designates an executor for the estate. However, that person does not have immediate legal authority over the property and estate but must secure court authorization to serve as the personal representative of the estate. If there is not a last will and testament, Kansas laws of intestate succession determine who can request appointment as the personal representative and who inherits the decedent’s property.

Getting help from a probate lawyer to start the estate administration process is strongly recommended. Until the court authorizes a personal representative to administer the estate, no one has legal authority to take actions on the decedent’s behalf, take personal property, or give items to family members.

The person who will serve as the personal representative should take the initial steps to secure authorization within the first few weeks after death. Otherwise, accessing financial accounts to pay bills and for other reasons will be difficult, unless someone had a joint account with the decedent. There are specific legal requirements that must be satisfied during probate and administration of the estate.

The personal representative has substantial legal responsibilities under Kansas law. Consulting with a knowledgeable probate lawyer is the best way to make certain all duties are performed in a proper and timely manner.

Process in the Coming Months

Settling an estate takes time. The complexity of the estate affects how much time probate and estate administration require. Family members should focus on the grieving process and be patient while the personal representative fulfills their duties and completes all the necessary legal steps to settle the estate.

Regardless of the nature of the estate, the estate administration process follows a specific series of steps. When probate of the estate is necessary, complex rules govern the process. The personal representative must comply with all the rules and procedures before estate property and assets can be distributed.

In some cases, disagreements or disputes among family members may arise. If that happens, the personal representative has responsibility for resolving those matters, as well as any other issues that arise during administration of the estate. A probate lawyer who assists with administration can be extremely helpful in these circumstances.

Throughout the estate administration and probate process, family members should avoid getting distracted by legal matters and take the time to mourn, grieve the loss of their loved one, and take care of themselves and other family members. The bereavement process takes time. The personal needs and comfort of everyone who is affected should remain at the fore in the weeks, months, and years ahead. Seeking outside resources in that regard can often be extremely helpful.

Talk with an Experienced Kansas Probate Attorney

The probate attorneys at Sloan Law Firm have the experience, knowledge, and skill to assist with estate administration and probate for any Kansas estate. From our offices in Topeka and Lawrence, we serve clients throughout the state. We invite you to call us at (785) 357-6311 or to contact us via the website form to schedule a consultation.