After Your Loss

Special Information If You've Recently Lost a Loved One


When you've lost a loved one, the grief can be overwhelming. On top of the grief that you and your family are experiencing, there are many practical matters that must be attended to. Below is some guidance that may help you through this difficult time.


  • The first thing to focus on is the funeral, since most other matters can wait until after it. As you are making arrangements for the funeral, consider that the deceased may have left instructions about what kind of funeral or other service he or she wanted. In Indiana, if your loved one had a Funeral Planning Declaration, it will specify their wishes regarding the funeral and burial, and will appoint an agent who has the legal authority to carry out their wishes. If you or someone else pays for the funeral, you should keep receipts of the expenditures to present them to the estate for reimbursement. Additionally, there may be a prepaid funeral contract, which may assist in covering the costs of the funeral and burial.

  • If your loved one was employed, you should contact the employer and find out if there are any death benefits connected with his or her employment. You should also notify Social Security Administration if he or she was receiving Social Security.

  • You should look for your loved one's Will. There's plenty of time to probate the will (What is Probate?), so your search for the will does not need to be rushed or panicked, but it is a good idea to locate and secure the will at the earliest opportunity available. If you cannot find it but know who your loved one used as an attorney, telephone the office of the attorney. If you can't find the original will but think the deceased had one, contact an attorney for advice.

  • After you find the Will, you should make an appointment with an attorney to help you determine the next steps to settle the estate. You are not required to use the attorney who drafted the Will. Whether or not you need to probate your loved one's estate depends on the type of assets he or she had and how they are titled. There may be alternatives which will simplify the probate process.

  • At the first appointment to discuss the estate, the attorney will need to have the original Will and any other estate planning documents such as the Trust Agreement if your loved one had a trust. The attorney eventually will need a list of all of your loved one's assets and debts. However, if you do not have all this information or do not know where to find it, you should go ahead and make an appointment with an attorney. The attorney can help you find out this information. Besides the Will or Trust, the following is a list of information that may be necessary to deal with your loved one's estate:
    • names and addresses of all beneficiaries in the will or trust
    • death certificates
    • military records
    • funeral and burial expenses
    • safe deposit agreements and keys
    • life insurance policies
    • pension or retirement plan documentation
    • bank statements
    • certificates of deposit
    • bonds
    • stock certificates
    • titles to motor vehicles
    • documentation of business ownership or business interest
    • prior gift tax and income tax returns
    • unpaid bills
    • unpaid loans and mortgages
    • credit card accounts


Other common concerns that you may have

Joint Bank Accounts: If you had a joint account with your loved one, in most cases, you will still have access to the funds after the death of a joint account holder.


Creditors: Many debt collectors attempt to prey on grieving family members by having a family member agree to take over the debt even when the family member has no legal obligation to take over the debt. Before agreeing to make any payments on a debt owed by a deceased family member, you should contact an attorney to determine if you are responsible for the debt. If creditors are calling you regarding your loved one's accounts, you should tell them your loved one is dead. If a debt collector continues to contact you, you should contact an attorney for advice on what to do.

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