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When a Loved One Dies

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When a loved one dies…
A guide for handling estate, probate and tax questions following the death of a family member.

What do we do now?
The days following the death of a loved one are exhausting and confusing. It is a time when many questions arise that you probably never had to think about before. 

Who do we need to notify? What needs to be done to settle the estate? Where do we begin? Who can advise us?

Used as a starting point, this list will help take some of the confusion out of what needs to be done. Of course, not all of the following will apply in every case.

People to Notify

  • Clergy
  • Funeral Home
  • Immediate Family
  • Close Friends
  • Power of Attorney
  • Business Associates
  • Attorney
  • Accountant
  • Trustee or Successor Trustee
  • Employer's Personnel Department
  • Insurance Agent/Company
  • Credit Card Companies
  • Landlord
  • Veterans Administration (for burial payment)
  • Social Security Administration
  • Bank
  • Investment Banker
  • Civil Service (if employed in civil service for more than 18 months)

Documents to Gather

  • Death Certificates
  • Will and Codicils
  • Marital Property Agreement
  • Trust Agreements & Amendments
  • Business Agreements
  • Life Insurance Policies
  • Copies of last year's income tax returns
  • Copies of prior years' gift tax returns


  • Investments for appropriateness
  • Checkbook for insurance premiums paid, clues to assets, location of safe deposit box
  • IRA & retirement plans for beneficiary designations
  • Insurance policies for home, autos, and personal property (Don't unknowingly let coverage lapse)

Tasks to Complete

  • Secure home and personal property from theft and vandalism
  • Locate assets
  • Check for credit life insurance on installment debt
  • Inventory contents of safe deposit box 
  • File the Last Will with the Probate Court within 30 days (In Wisconsin; other states may have 
    different deadlines)
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