“You might not be thinking about the practical tasks that need to be accomplished as soon as possible, but these steps are critical to safeguard an estate and ensure that it is passed down as smoothly as possible.”
When a person dies, and after his or her family members have dealt with their initial emotions, the real work begins, according to Kiplinger in the article “5 Things to Do the Moment a Loved One Passes Away.”
If you know you are named as executor of the will, take these steps to be sure that the named beneficiaries receive as much of the estate as possible.
Obtain Access to Home and Documents. It’s crucial to get access as soon as possible, to obtain tax returns and financial statements, as well as jewelry and family heirlooms. Gather all tax records, credit cards, bank statements, and expensive items of personal property. You may also want to change the door locks, if there are items of value still in the home.
Gain Protection by Freezing All Financial Accounts. Unfortunately, obituaries provide sufficient information about deceased people to let burglars try to break into their home or to steal valuables. Death certificates are usually available, days after a person dies. Immediately contact the decedent’s credit card companies and banks and instruct them to freeze the accounts. This will stop any automatic payments of the decedent’s bills. Creditors must wait to get paid, until the estate is in probate and being administered to by the executor.
Have the decedent’s mail forwarded to you, by providing the post office with a letter signed by your administering attorney stating your authority and intentions.
If the property is owned by the decedent, make sure it’s insured because it still may contain valuables. The estate is liable for any damage to neighboring real estate caused by the residence, such as water leaks or fires that started in the home.
Inventory the property that you’ve removed and keep items of substantial value in a safe deposit box.
Obtain Taxes and Financial Statements. Between your search of the person’s home and the forwarded mail you should now be getting, you should be able to put together a good financial picture of the estate’s assets and liabilities.
Talk to Professionals. Engage an attorney and an accountant. You’ll need to initially work with the existing financial planner, since the decedent’s accounts are now frozen and can’t be transferred until you’re given court authorization. However, you can hire other financial consultants for the estate.
Reference: Kiplinger (April 17, 2018) “5 Things to Do the Moment a Loved One Passes Away”