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10 Steps to Take After Losing a Loved One

Losing a loved one is one of the most challenging experiences that anyone can go through. Unfortunately, it’s also a time when there are many practical and legal matters to attend to. Knowing what steps to take after a loved one dies can make the process less overwhelming. In this blog post, we’ll discuss ten things that family members should do after a loved one passes away in Maryland.

  1. Notify family and friends: The first step is to notify family and close friends of the loved one’s passing. This is typically done by calling or emailing those who need to know.  We always tell our clients who call right after a loved one dies to take care of the family first. Very rarely does anything legal come up or have to happen immediately after a loved one passes.
  2. Make funeral arrangements:  Next, the family will need to make funeral arrangements, including choosing a funeral home, deciding on a burial or cremation, and planning the funeral service. This is often a deeply personal process that is different for each family.
  3. Obtain a death certificate: The family will need to obtain certified copies of the death certificate. This is typically obtained from the funeral home or the local health department. You will need this document to carry out many of the next steps.  We recommend obtaining as many as you think you will need, but usually ten will suffice.  It is often more cost effective to get them early in the process than to wait and have to get more later.
  4. Secure the loved one’s property: The family should attempt to secure the loved one’s property, including their home and any other assets, to prevent theft or damage. This may involve changing locks or moving valuable items to a secure location.
  5. Search for a will: The family should search for a will, as this will outline the loved one’s wishes regarding the distribution of their assets. Family members can check with the Register of Wills in the county where the Decedent resided to see if one was recorded.  If the Decedent did not have a will, this will become an intestate estate, meaning the loved one died without a will and Maryland’s intestacy laws will control the disposition of the Decedent’s probate estate.
  6. Hire an attorney: If there is no will or if there are disputes among family members regarding the distribution of assets, the family should hire an attorney to help navigate the legal process. An attorney can help the family to understand their rights and responsibilities and can represent them in legal proceedings if necessary.
  7. File for probate: If the loved one’s assets are subject to probate, the attorney will help the family file a petition for probate with the local probate court. Probate is the legal process by which a deceased person’s assets are distributed to their heirs.
  8. Appoint a personal representative: After filing a Petition for Probate, the Register of Wills will appoint a personal representative to manage the estate and distribute assets. The personal representative is typically named in the will, but if no will exists, the Register of Wills or the Orphans’ Court will appoint one.
  9. Notify creditors and pay debts: After being appointed, the personal representative will need to notify creditors of the loved one’s passing and pay any outstanding debts. This may involve selling assets to generate cash or negotiating with creditors to settle debts.
  10. Distribute assets: Last, after all debts have been paid, the personal representative will distribute the remaining assets to the loved one’s beneficiaries. This process can be complicated and may require the help of an attorney or other professional.

Dealing with the legal and financial issues after a loved one’s passing can be overwhelming, but by following these ten steps, family members can ensure that their loved one’s affairs are properly handled.

It’s important to seek the help of an experienced attorney who can guide you through the process and provide the support and guidance you need during this difficult time. By working together, you can honor your loved one’s memory and ensure that their wishes are respected. Our attorneys at Ritter Elder Law & Estate Planning are here to help you navigate the often completed probate process quickly and efficiently.

Disclaimer: The information provided in this blog is for educational and informational purposes only and should not be relied upon as legal advice. Every situation is unique, and the law is constantly changing, so it is important to consult with a licensed attorney in your jurisdiction to obtain advice specific to your circumstances. The use of this blog and any information contained herein does not create an attorney-client relationship between the user and our law firm. We do not accept any responsibility or liability for any actions taken or not taken based on the information provided in this blog. Always seek the advice of a licensed attorney before taking any legal action.