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The Top 5 Legal Things to Do When a Family Member Passes Away

1. Take a deep breath. Losing a loved one is obviously an emotional time for a family. Don't rush into these things if you aren't ready. It's OK to delegate some of this to other family members or friends who are willing to help.

2. Find any documents related to the family member's last wishes. Did he or she have a pre-planned funeral? If so, contact the funeral director. Were there specific things that were in the Will related to burial or cremation?

(This is also an important reason why you need to make sure your family knows where to find your important legal documents. If you have specific funeral arrangements that you wish to be followed, your family will not be able to follow your wishes if they do not know what your wishes are specifically or where to find them.)

3. Do not make any distributions from the Estate or file any beneficiary paperwork until you talk to an estate administration attorney.

4. Ensure your family member's assets are secure. Is the house locked to ensure burglars don't break in? Are there pets or livestock that need to be cared for? Is there a business that needs someone to manage it?

5. Make an appointment with a competent estate administration attorney. A professional will be able to guide you through the estate administration process. Some estates are relatively simple and can be settled in a matter of weeks. Other estates require court supervision and can take months or years to completely administer.

Please contact our office to schedule a free estate administration review. We will discuss generally the heirship of your family member, assets of the estate, and anticipated liabilities of the estate. Our attorneys will be able to give you a general outline of the administration process for your specific situation and you will be in full understanding of the fees charged after a short meeting. Prior to your free estate administration meeting with our office, you should gather all estate planning documents that you can find (will, trust, powers of attorney, etc.), know the current family situation of the deceased individual, and have a basic understanding of the assets and liabilities of the estate.

By: Andrew Mays
Andrew is a partner at the law firm of Hauk & Owens, LLC in West-Central Illinois who focuses his practice in Estate Administration, Probate, and Estate Planning.

DISCLAIMER: This publication is not intended to be legal advice but is presented for informational and educational purposes only. The facts and circumstances of a specific legal issue are unique and you should seek legal advice for your specific questions or concerns. The choice of a lawyer is an important decision and should not be based solely upon advertisements. No attorney-client relationship is created.

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