When someone passes away, it is always an emotional time for family members. Unfortunately, it is also a time when someone in the family should think clearly, because there are things you should do immediately that will help make the experience easier for everyone in the family.
#1: Get Access to the Home
Gaining access to the home or apartment may be tricky, especially if you don't have keys. A landlord of a rental property may or may not allow you access without court approval and you may need to enter the premises in the presence of a municipal employees.
Once you are there, you may only be allowed in once, so get everything you need immediately. Gather everything valuable – jewelry, family heirlooms, artwork, etc. Maybe even find that coffee can of money stashed under the mattress, and put it all in a safety deposit box or turn it over to the executor of the estate. Make a list of all valuables that you removed or put that iPhone to work and take pictures.
#2: Find the Documents
Once in the home, gain access to all the important documents you might need … that includes banks accounts, tax returns, insurance documents, financial statements, credit cards, retirement plans and more. That might means digging through tons of paperwork in the home to find what you need.
#3: Change the Locks
Once you have access to the property, you should have the locks changed. You never know who might have a key.
#4: Freeze all Financial Accounts
Protect the assets by freezing all financial accounts. This will stop any automatic payments of bills, and prevent scammers from stealing mail, accessing credit card info and more.
#5 Forward Mail
Go to the post office and have the deceased mail forwarded to you or to the executor of the estate. This is the best way to get information about accounts and other matters. You may require a letter from the administering attorney stating your authority.
#6: Deal with Utilities
If the deceased owned a home, you'll need to decide what to do about utilities (turn off gas, water, electric, phone, etc.). If the deceased rented a property, work with the landlord to make decisions about the apartment. Keeping the property maintained during this time is important.
#7 Hire an Attorney and Accountant
Unless you want to do all the legal work and prepare the tax returns personally, hire an attorney and an accountant to help you prepare all the documents that will be needed to close out the estate.
#8 Talk to Family
It is important to talk to other family members and heirs so that you all agree on a course of action to take with the estate. Working together in probate matters saves time and money; contesting an estate can lead to huge legal fees, long wait times, and severe disruption of the family.