What to do After a Family Member Passes Away

When a family member passes away, it can be a difficult time. We have put together a guide to the legal steps when a family member passes.
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Staff Writer, @DooleyNotedLaw

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The family is left to pick up the pieces when a loved one dies. This can be an emotionally difficult time. Additionally, it’s often hard to think about the legal steps you need. However, estate planning is one of the most important aspects of life. When a family member passes away, it is crucial to ensure everything is in order. This guide will help you carry out your Will. We recommend working with a qualified estate planning lawyer in Texas, so everything goes smoothly.

What to do When a Family Member Passes Away

There are some basic steps that you should take soon after losing a family member. It is essential to have a plan during this difficult time.

Legal Documentation of Death

After someone dies, you will need to get a legal document from the funeral home or medical examiner. This is essential to access bank accounts, go through probate, and file for life insurance. You will need to get several copies of the death certificate for different purposes. Ideally, you should contact them within days of the person’s death.

If the court has already named an executor, that person is responsible for getting death certificates. If there is no executor, it’s up to the family to get them.

Find the Will

Another vital step is finding the Will of your family member. If they had an estate planning lawyer in Texas, you should tell that lawyer about the death. The lawyer might know where the Will is. If not, you can look for it in places like a desk, safe-deposit box, or where they keep important documents.

The Will lists the executor’s name. Additionally, the Will might have your family member’s wishes about funeral arrangements.

Locate the Executor

If you find a will and are not the executor, it is crucial to find the person who is. The executor is responsible for completing the last wishes of your family member. This includes distributing assets and property according to the Will. If there are any debts, the executor is responsible for paying them off.

Settle the Estate

After taking care of the immediate needs following your loved one’s death, the executor must settle the estate. This means making sure that they follow your family member’s wishes. The executor also needs to take care of the legal and practical steps.

Inform All Parties

Notify all necessary parties of the death. This includes The Social Security Administration if they receive social security benefits, life insurance companies, banks, financial institutions, and other creditors. Further, it’s vital to notify financial advisors and credit agencies.

Pay Bills and Close Accounts

The executor will need to pay any debts and close any accounts the deceased had opened. This includes medical bills, credit card debt, mortgages, car loans, and other outstanding statements.

You will also need to open a bank account in the estate’s name so you can handle any financial dealings. Make sure to have an accurate inventory of all the estate’s assets so you can take care of everything.

Distribute Assets

The main goal of Estate Planning is to distribute your loved one’s assets. This is done by following the Will or Trust. The executor has the responsibility to make sure to distribute all the assets according to the Will.

If there isn’t a Will or Trust, the state will determine how to distribute the assets. This can get complicated, so it is best to have an Estate Planning Lawyer in Texas help you if this situation applies to you.

Pay Estate Expenses

As a general rule, your family member’s estate is responsible for any debts and expenses arising after their death. This includes things like loans or pet care costs. If you choose to pay for these expenses yourself, you may be able to get reimbursed from the estate later on. However, if you had a joint credit card account with them, you would be responsible for those debts.

Is Probate Necessary When a Family Member Passes Away?

When someone dies, their Will goes through a legal process called probate to ensure it is valid. The court appoints the executor listed in the Will to manage the deceased person’s estate. In Texas, a probate is necessary when the person who passed away only had assets in their name. Also, a probate is required when the individual has more than $75,000 in assets. However, if the assets are under $75,000, probate is not needed.

There are two general probate processes. The first is called Small Estate Probate. In a small estate probate process in Texas, the estate must be worth $500 to $200,000. The second type of probate is called Traditional probate. This applies to estates larger than $200,000, or disagreements between creditors, beneficiaries, or family members.

It is essential to note that sometimes probates are not necessary. For example, if there is joint ownership of property or other assets, they will go to the survivor. Additionally, if there is a beneficiary on a life insurance policy, the benefit will be paid to that person. If you need help determining if a probate is necessary, you should speak to a Texas lawyer specializing in Estate Planning.

What if I Can’t Find a Will? 

If you can’t find a will, it might mean that your loved one didn’t write one. In this case, you should speak with a lawyer specializing in Estate Planning to figure out your next steps. If there is no will, the court must decide what happens to the estate. This process can be lengthy and expensive.

It is imperative to have a will. This makes it easier for family members when someone dies. You can ensure your loved ones are taken care of by creating an estate plan with the help of an Estate Planning lawyer. A lawyer can help you create a plan that meets your unique needs and objectives.

Why Hire an Estate Planning Lawyer in Texas

After a family member passes away, the legal steps you need to take can be complicated and confusing. A lawyer specializing in Estate Planning can help bring security and clarity to the situation.

Dooley Noted offers a free consultation to discuss your Estate Planning needs. If you or your loved ones haven’t created a will or estate plan yet, we encourage you to get started today! Don’t hesitate to contact us for a free consultation. Estate Planning is an essential part of life, and we are here to help you through it.


The contents of this post, and the posting and viewing of the information on this post, should not be construed as, and should not be relied upon for, legal advice in any particular circumstance or fact situation. An attorney should be contacted for advice on specific legal issues.

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