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Horizon Elder Law & Estate Planning Blog

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

What To Do When a Loved One Dies

How do I start the probate process after my loved one died?

The death of a loved one, no matter the circumstances, is a sad event.  In the wake of your loved one’s death, you may feel lost and confused as to the necessary next steps.  This can make an already tragic time all the more painful.  You may need legal assistance to get through the complex process of transferring your relative’s assets to his or her heirs.  Our San Ramon elder law attorney at Horizon Elder Law & Estate Planning outlines some important steps you should take following the death of a loved one below.

Immediate Steps

In the immediate aftermath of your loved one’s death, there are some critical steps you must take to ensure the death is deemed official and plans for the burial are placed in motion.  Observe the following:

  1. If your loved one died at home, you may need to contact the coroner or local police so that the death can be documented;
  2. Notify the deceased’s family and friends as soon as possible;
  3. Obtain a death certificate (preferably with several copies) from the doctor, coroner, or funeral home;
  4. Look for a will or trust document, along with any instructions concerning burial and cremation arrangements;
  5. Complete the burial or cremation arrangements;
  6. Make an appointment with a probate attorney.

Initiating the Probate Process

As soon as possible after your loved one’s death, you will want to schedule an appointment with an experienced probate attorney in your area.  Bring with you the deceased’s will or any other documents concerning his or her last wishes and finances.  Your attorney will review the documents and determine the necessary next steps.

In California, if your loved one dies with or without a will, their estate will likely need to go through the probate process.  Probate should be initiated in the court in the deceased’s county of residence as soon as possible after death.  During the probate process, the deceased’s creditors will be notified of the death, debts will be repaid, and assets will be transferred to the heirs or beneficiaries. Probate can be lengthy and complicated, so consult with an attorney right away for assistance.


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