Useful information to help guide
your probate process

My Loved One Recently Died In Chicago. What Are My Next Steps?

On top of the grief and the sadness, the passing of a loved one often comes with other emotions – confusion chief among them.

If you’re wondering about what to do – and even where to start – after the passing of a loved one in Chicago or elsewhere in Illinois, here are a few important points to keep in mind:

1.) Attain a Death Certificate

When your loved one passes, one of the first steps to take is to secure a legal pronouncement of death (particularly if they died alone, and without a doctor present). Once you secure a legal pronouncement, it can be recorded as a death certificate, which will be an essential document for the estate administration and probate processes. You will likely wish to attain multiple certified copies of the deceased’s death certificate, as many institutions, organizations, and other interested parties may require one.

2.) Contact Family, Friends, and Work Associates

Following the death of a loved one, someone will need to take on the critical job of notifying the decedent’s family and friends, often via phone or email. Once the ball gets rolling, a phone tree generally forms, as individuals pass around the news to their own networks.

If the deceased person was employed at the time of their death, it will also be important to notify their employer, who may be in a position to provide useful information or documentation to the decedent’s representative, and begin the process of handling any benefits that may need to be paid to the family or estate.

3.) Locate Important Documents

When someone dies, it will be important to gather all of the relevant paperwork and documentation that may factor into the probate/estate administration process, including:

  • Titles to motor vehicles (and other such assets)
  • Real estate deeds
  • Stocks, bonds, other investments
  • Banking information/statements
  • Information on pensions/retirement benefits
  • All other estate planning documents, including will and testament, trust documents, and funeral plans

This may take a while. Not everyone passes away with a clean, organized estate plan. It’s important to gather all relevant information and documentation as quickly as possible, to help provide guidance for the probate process (and see what assets may be able to avoid probate altogether).

4.) File the Will of the Deceased

Assuming that there is a will, Illinois law states that it immediately becomes public record upon the death of the person, and it must be filed with the local county clerk within 30 days of discovery. It is worth noting that it is a felony in Illinois to destroy a will, or to willfully hide one for more than 30 days.

5.) Account for and Secure the Deceased Person’s Property

Following a person’s death, you may want to take steps to ensure that their property – residence, vehicle, or other ‘big ticket’ assets – is protected from theft, vandalism, or destruction.

At the same time, you may wish to inventory the deceased person’s tangible personal property, including pieces of art, furniture, clothing, jewelry, and so on. Creating a thorough, itemized lists may help prevent disputes and hold-ups in the probate process down the line.

6.) Tie Up Loose Ends

When a loved one dies, someone needs to take it upon themselves to cancel all of the decedent’s personal accounts, including credit cards, driver’s licenses, and other online accounts. Failing to do so may expose the estate to the threat of identity theft.

Along the same lines, you may wish to notify the post office to hold or forward all mail addressed to the deceased. Not only will this help alleviate the risk of theft or fraud, but it can help ensure that all important information regarding debts, creditors, or personal accounts ends up in the hands of the people who will be handling these matters.

Similarly, if there are any organizations making payments to the deceased person – most commonly, this will include the Social Security Administration – notify them shortly after your loved one’s death, in order to avoid having to deal with reimbursements or overpayments down the line.

7.) Contact a Professional

At any step of the process, if you feel burdened, lost, or overwhelmed, you should not hesitate to reach out to a professional who can assist you! For instance, you may wish to bring on an accountant or tax preparer to help handle financial transactions and tax matters.

Similarly, an attorney or firm well-versed in matters of estate administration and probate may be an invaluable resource, able to assist you with all sorts of matters as they come up.

Have any further questions or concerns about what to do in the event of a loved one’s passing in the Chicagoland area? Interested in discussing any matter relating to estate planning, administration, or probate? Don’t hesitate to reach out to Chicago Probate Law to begin the conversation.

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