Losing a loved one is difficult under any circumstance, but especially when the loss occurs after an unexpected accident. While you’re grieving, it may be challenging to remember all the steps to take in the days and weeks that follow.
Below, the experienced attorneys at Cox, Cox, Filo, Camel & Wilson explain the basic steps you’ll need to take following a death. If you have questions, contact us at 800-836-3702 to discuss your situation with an expert.
Talk to Dependents and Family Members
First and foremost, make arrangements to care for any dependents (including pets) your loved one cared for. Ask other family members for help. Don’t feel you should shoulder the burden alone.
Locate Legal Documents
Find your loved one’s will or statement. If the deceased left a will, trust, or other binding document, then it’s possible funeral arrangements and other considerations are listed in these documents.
You may also need to address your loved one’s financial situation, however, a bank can only take instruction regarding a deceased person’s accounts from someone authorized to act on behalf of the deceased’s estate—usually listed in a will or trust.
If no formal estate planning has been prepared, his process may include probate or letters of administration from a court.
If all else fails, a trust or estate attorney can help you transfer assets or assist with any probate issues that may occur.
Notify your employer and ask for bereavement leave.
Contact your loved one’s employer (if he or she was working) and inform them of your loved one’s death. Ask about benefits and any due payments—find out if a life insurance policy exists.
Make Funeral & Burial Arrangements
In Louisiana, the medical examiner should be able to provide a death certificate within a 24-hour period. The funeral home will file this certificate with the appropriate agency on your behalf.
Be sure to get certified copies of the death certificate so you can settle the estate, contact insurance and/or apply for your loved one’s benefits, if applicable.
Next, make arrangements with a mortuary or crematorium. If the deceased served in the military, he or she may be entitled to veteran benefits.
If desired, you or a family member can write an obituary and place it in the local paper.
Check your loved one’s insurance policy to see how quickly you need to inform the insurance company about the death. Multiple insurance policies may apply, such as car, health, and life insurance.
You will likely need to send written notice of the death via certified mail to each provider within each respective time frame.
Inform any agencies that were sending benefits to your loved one, such as Social Security or pensions, according to their policies.
Surviving family members may be entitled to the deceased’s benefits, but you’ll have to send the appropriate documentation specified by the agency. Surviving family members, for example, are prohibited from cashing Social Security checks that arrive after their loved one’s death.
Depending on your family’s living arrangement, utilities and personal services may need to be canceled. If the home is now vacant, you may want to work with the police to make sure your loved one’s home stays safe.
You’ll also need to make plans to secure other property such as cars, boats or storage units.
Settle the Estate
Once you notify your loved one’s bank, the bank will freeze all accounts. Cancel credit cards, unless your name is also on them.
In Louisiana, your loved one’s succession representative, or the executor, is the person your loved one appointed in his or her will to handle the succession (inheritance) process.
The succession representative must file the will in court. The succession representative will also need to inventory and evaluate the estate, pay outstanding debts and taxes, and seek court approval to distribute estate property.
Understand Your Legal Options
If you’ve lost a loved one as a result of someone’s negligence, you may be eligible to receive financial compensation.
According to Louisiana statute, family members have one year from the date of death to file a wrongful death claim.
Wrongful death claims typically occur after accidents involving motor vehicles, medical malpractice, or workplace accidents. Louisiana laws allow you to file a wrongful death claim to recover costs including (but not limited to) funeral expenses and lost wages.
While no amount of money can compensate the loss of a loved one, financial recovery can help ease transitional periods and uncertainty.
At Cox, Cox, Filo, Camel & Wilson, our experienced wrongful death attorneys can help you understand your legal options. We have decades of experience in making sure victims’ families get the justice they deserve.