As a Cobb County probate attorney, I’m often asked, “What are the most important steps I need to take after the death of a loved one?”
While there are undoubtedly a ton of things to do in the days and weeks following a loved one’s passing, I like to advise families to start with 8 specific tasks that will help them get a grip on closing out an estate. These steps will ultimately help to beat overwhelm, avoid oversights and give families the time they need to grieve, instead drowning in paperwork and government red tape:
- Secure all property– One of the first things I advise families to do is to secure any property included in your loved one’s estate. This means immediately removing valuables and locking everything up tight (including garages and sheds!) to keep the property safe from criminals or vandals. This will also prevent other family members from picking through your loved one’s assets before the proper time.
- Request certified copies of the death certificate- A certified copy of your loved one’s death certificate can typically be ordered from the funeral home or in Cobb County, Georgia, you can apply for one through the Cobb County Public Health Department. You will need this death certificate to claim social security benefits, transfer property, close out bank accounts and handle any other financial affairs.
- Freeze financial accounts– You’ll want to take an inventory of your loved one’s financial affairs as soon as possible following his or her passing. Essentially you’ll want to make sure all automatic debits are stopped and a freeze is placed on all bank accounts and credit cards that are not jointly owned. It’s also a good idea to stop any automatic deposits scheduled to hit the bank account before you officially close it out.
- Locate estate planning documents and contact a probate attorney– 99.9 % of the time, families will need to contact a Cobb County estate planning attorney immediately following the death of a loved one. That’s because the administration of your loved one’s estate will depend on the legal documents he or she had in place at the time of death. So for example, if your loved one did not have a will or only had a will in place, you will need an attorney to assist you in filing with the probate court. If your loved one had a trust in place, you may avoid the court process, but will still need to contact an attorney to ensure the trust is administered properly and all expenses of the estate are paid.
- Relocate abandoned pets– If a loved one died leaving pets alone in the house, you should immediately take steps to place the animals with another family member, friend or local shelter. You may also want to contact your loved one’s attorney to find out if they had legal plans in place (such as a pet trust) to care for their beloved friends upon their passing.
- Contact social security– Social security must be notified following the death of a loved one. You should call them at 1-800-772-1213. Benefits will be stopped upon notification and you can also inquire about surviving benefits for a spouse or child.
- Open Benefit Claims– If your loved one had life insurance or was entitled to death benefits from his or her place of employment, union or civic organization, you must contact such organizations in the days and weeks following your loved one’s death to start your claims.
- Consider long-term care for the surviving spouse– If your loved one left behind a surviving spouse who is elderly and unable to live alone, consideration should immediately be given to his or her long-term care. This may range from moving in with another relative to hiring round-the-clock in-home health aides. Nursing home care may also be required in this situation, to which I’d advise you to consult with a Cobb County probate lawyer to discuss potential ways to protect your loved one’s assets before making such a move.
Of course in addition to taking the steps above, I always welcome you to contact me, your neighborhood Cobb County probate lawyer for help. Our office can assist you in working through the legalities of your loved one’s estate and handling any estate administration needs.
By simply mentioning this article, you can come in for a complimentary Georgia Family Treasures Planning Session (normally $750). However, this offer is limited to the next 10 responders, so call 770.425.6060 to reserve your space.
Ashley Davis Bush, LCSW, has published a great article on the importance of not badmouthing your ex. Yes, maybe he is a jerk. I know, she may makes Cruella de Vil look sweet. If you have children together, they will suffer from your badmouthing ways.
So how do you resist the temptation to hurl the insults? How do you refuse to take the bait that your ex dangles tantalizingly in front of you? Zip your lips! That's right, just like the old fashioned adage "if you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all." Use these tips to help you keep your lips firmly zipped." Ms Bush has the following tips:
Your children are ½ your ex: when you insult your ex, you're insulting your children.
You once loved this person: it may seem incredulous, but there was a time when you actually wanted to spend the rest of your life with this person.
Redirect your emotion : Change the trajectory of your frustrated feelings and start focusing on what is going right in your life. Make a list of things for which you are grateful, including the smallest details of abundance (your health, friends, having electricity, good food, etc.). Gratitude always feels better than anger.
Badmouthing ultimately hurts you: Remember that lowering yourself to the level of a school yard bully is no way to go through life. The anger activates your body's stress response and wears you down. Being unkind, nasty, and spiteful has a way of backfiring. It's like holding a hot coal, ready to fling it at your enemy, only to discover that you're burning your own hand.
If your ex is badmouthing you, then they are suffering: If you're on the receiving end of being badmouthed, just know that your ex isn't doing so well. Even if you can't wish them some compassion, you can at least stop the spiral of negativity by refusing to play dirty.
Difficult circumstances can be your teacher: Love yourself and your children enough to stay out of the fighting ring.
If you do resort to badmouthing, you can stop: If you find yourself slipping with an insult, say the words "Cancel that" and try again.
SOURCE FOR ARTICLE: "Zip Your Lips: Resisting the Temptation to Badmouth Your Ex" by Ashley Davis Bush, LCSW, in Huffington Post Divorce
I’m not sure there are official statistics for this, but based on my years of experience as an Atlanta wills and trust lawyer, the number one reason people don’t do their estate plan is that they simply can’t face their own mortality.
In a way, we are like the groundhog…occasionally we stick our heads out of our warm, protected, cave of ignorance to think about what would happen to our family if something unexpectedly happens to us. In regard to estate planning, are you the type to peek-out, see your shadow, and go back in to your safe and warm bunker and hide type of person? Or do you step out and face the day and charge full steam ahead?
Interestingly enough, the tradition of the groundhog being afraid of seeing his shadow is a recent phenomenon. The tradition started as a medieval superstition that all hibernating animals (not just the groundhog) came out of their caves and dens to check the weather in early February. If the animal could see their shadow, it meant winter could go on for another 6 weeks which meant they could go back to sleep. A cloudy day meant spring was just around the corner and they could venture out. As you can see, shadow didn’t “scare” the animal back into the safety of their den. It was simply an alarm clock of sorts!
So with that myth dispelled, I also want you to stop using the fear of your mortality as a reason for postponing doing your own will or trust.
Simply think of estate planning as a way to ensure that your legacy will go to the people you want, in the way you want, when you want. It will also allow you to save your loved ones court costs, attorney’s fees and most importantly, will allow them to mourn your loss without the additional burden of dealing with government red tape, a chaotic court system and financial confusion.
So, as we see all the news and excitement surrounding Punxsutaney Phil this year, take a long look at yourself and see if you are ready to make sure your family is taken care of no matter what. If your plans are sorely lacking, I invite you to give me, your neighborhood Atlanta will and trust lawyer a call to discuss your options.
By simply mentioning this article, you can come in for a Georgia Family Treasures Planning Session (normally $750) at no charge. Call 770-425-6060 to reserve your space today.