Take time to mourn your loss.
Firstly, if you are reading this article, please let me extend my sympathy for the loss of your loved one. I hope that you are able to take some time to mourn your loss and to reflect on their life. The first days and weeks after someone dies can be extremely burdensome and hectic for those close to the deceased. What is most important, during this time, is that you make sure to take good physical, emotional and mental care of yourself. With the exception of closing accounts, there are rarely situations which require immediate legal action after the death of an individual. You may begin to administer the estate of the loved one once you feel comfortable. Take this time to honor the memory of your friend, spouse or relative.
Look for a will or other estate planning Documents.
You may or may not know whether the deceased individual had an estate plan in place. Unfortunately, I counsel clients who thought they were protected by an estate plan, only to find out that the decedent died intestate (without an estate plan).
You should begin your estate planning documents search among the documents of the deceased person. In particular, look to where the decedent kept their important documents and files. In Virginia, the Circuit Courts in certain jurisdictions may have the will on file. If the decedent had a particular attorney, you may also contact their office. Although, estate planning attorneys rarely store the original will for their clients.
Begin compiling a list of all accounts of the deceased.
One of the more pressing tasks to perform is compiling a list of all accounts of the deceased. You will want to notify these accounts that the deceased is no longer living so that a freeze might be put on the account. You will want to ensure that no one can use the social security number or credit cards of the decedent. You will need multiple copies of the death certificate to hand out to the various accounts.
Begin compiling a list of the close family members of the deceased.
You will need a list of the closest relatives of the deceased and their addresses. These are required to ensure that they are given proper notice of the administration of the estate. If you have questions about who should receive notice in Virginia, you should speak with an attorney who practices in estate administration. When you speak with an attorney, they will need a solid grasp of the immediate relatives (family tree) of the deceased person.
Begin compiling a list of the assets and property of the deceased.
You will need a list of assets and their ownership status when you first talk to an attorney about the estate. It is also good practice to collect as much information as possible regarding their debts and liabilities as well.
Schedule an appointment with my office if you have questions.
If you have questions about the administration of an estate, please contact my office. I would be happy to discuss your various rights and duties under Virginia estate law. Further, I will seek to determine the amount of work you wish for my office to perform. I am available to perform as much or as little labor during the entire administration/probate process as you desire. This largely depends on your comfort level. Once again, I am sorry for your loss. Please give my office a call and I will be able to assist you.
Ryan C. Young | Estate Administration & Probate | Richmond, Virginia Attorney