Steps to Take When Your Loved One Passes Away (In General and Florida Specifically)
It is a tumultuous time and the last thing you want to think about is what legal hoops you need to jump through. But here are a few that should be done fairly soon after death (30-60 days).
First Week****Obtain certified copies of the death certificate - these are usually obtained for you by the funeral home. If not, you need to apply to the Vital Statistics division of the Department of Health. **** Locate the will, if there is one - Look around the home for a strong box, search all desks and closets, and inquire at the decedent's bank if they had a safe deposit box. If you know the name of their lawyer, call him/her and inquire about a will. ****Begin collecting the decedent's mail. You will need this to know who the decedent's creditors are.
First Month****Consult with a Probate Lawyer. Unless you are the sole beneficiary of the decedent's estate, and assuming there is property to be disposed of more than just a few personal items, in Florida, you or whomever is named as personal representative under the Will will need to hire a probate attorney.
***Give the lawyer the death certificate, original will and incoming mail. ****If you are not hiring a lawyer for whatever reason (sole beneficiary or no assets), the death certificate should still be filed with the Clerk of the Circuit Court in the County in which the decedent was a resident. The same goes for filing the original Will with the Court.
Next Few Months****Continue to collect the mail and provide it to the attorney. ****Locate all of the property that belonged to the decedent, including, but not limited to: a. real estate (both here in Florida and elsewhere); b. bank accounts and brokerage accounts; c. insurance policies; d. safe deposit boxes; e. titled personal property like cars and boats; and f. non-titled property, including art, jewelry, household items. *** Provide a list of the property you find to the lawyer. ****Help the lawyer find beneficiaries and heirs. ****Help with the preparation of court documents and tax returns by providing information.