What to do when a loved one dies? As an attorney who does a lot of probate work in Rockwall County as well as Hunt, Kaufman, Collin and Dallas counties, this is a question I often get after the death of a loved one.

This three (3) part series answers some the most frequent questions I get when called about what to do when a loved one dies.  If you have any other questions, let me know and lets see if I can help you as well!

My loved one just died. What should I do?

This is a concern for everyone. Immediately after a death there seems to be so much to do. It seems overwhelming, but it need not be.

What’s the first thing I should do?

The first thing to focus on of course is the funeral. It must be planned and paid for, or at least a plan needs to be made for payment. You should look through all the available records to see if there was a prepaid funeral contract. This may be kept with or near a will or estate planning file. The deceased may even have left instructions about what kind of funeral or other service he or she might want. You should look for this information. Texas law gives a priority to claims for funerals, so if you or someone else has to pay for the funeral, you should keep receipts of your expenditures and plan on presenting a claim to be reimbursed.

Whom should I contact? Should I contact his/her employer?

You should tell the employer and find out if there are any death benefits connected with his or her employment. Talk to the human services or personnel department if there is one. You should also notify Social Security Administration if he or she was receiving Social Security. You can find the local number in your phone book.

Do I have to find the will right away?

You should look for the deceased’s will, which probably says “Last Will and Testament” at the top. If it is not easily found, consider telephoning the office of the deceased’s attorney, if he or she had one. Make sure to look in the safety deposit box if you have access to it and cannot find the will anyplace else. There’s plenty of time to probate the will (see below), so your search for the will does not need to be rushed or panicked, but it is a good idea to locate and secure the will when the opportunity is available. If you can’t find the original will but think the deceased had one, contact your attorney for advice.

What should I do with the will when I find it?

When you find the will, you should consider making an appointment with an attorney who is qualified and experienced in probate law. Even with a well-drafted will there are options that an experienced lawyer can help you sort through.

I am an attorney who does a lot of probate work in Rockwall County as well as Hunt, Kaufman, Collin and Dallas Counties.  If you have any questions about what to do when a loved one dies, call me.  I will do my best to answer your questions and get you pointed in the right direction on what to do when a loved one dies.