What do I do next?
How do I plan a meaningful funeral?
Who should I inform first?
What if we want our loved one buried in another
city or state?
What is a death certificate?
How many certified copies of the death certificate
should I order?
Why would an autopsy be performed?
Why do I need to contact the Social Security
Do I have to hire a lawyer?
What do I need to do after the funeral?
What do I do with the will?
What if there is no will?
What is probate?
What is an executor or personal representative?
Who can be the personal representative?
If I am the personal representative, is there
anyone who can help?
What is a fiduciary?
Where do I get copies of birth certificates?
What else do I need to know?
Our family is fighting over everything, what can
Why is identity theft prevention an issue after
someone has passed away?
What is an assessment?
What about Veterans?
As the surviving spouse, what steps do I need to
I am so down, what should I do?
What do I do
Very soon it will be necessary to select a funeral
home. If you do not know which funeral home to use, see the
List of Arizona Funeral Homes on the
Information page. It may be wise to discuss
options with a couple of funeral homes to find someone that you are
comfortable working with and to help you get a better understanding of
pricing and options available to you and your family. Referrals
from friends and family may also be valuable. Also be sure that
the immediate needs of dependents and pets are cared for.
How do I plan a meaningful
Look over the Considerations for a Funeral
guide on the Resources page for information to consider
when planning a funeral. You can print the Considerations for a
Funeral booklet which provides you with those things to consider as well
as a worksheet to help you with planning, tracking and organizing
information. You may feel overwhelmed with things to do, as well
as with grief over the loss, use the materials in this booklet to help
track your thoughts and the important information coming at you during
this time. Your funeral director and clergy will also be very
valuable resources in helping with these plans.
should I inform first?
Inform immediate family members first, once they are
aware they may want to assist you with informing others. Before
informing too many people, you may want to have funeral service
information available to save you from making multiple calls. Use
the Family & Friends to Contact form on the
Resources page to help you keep
track of information and contacts. Notify clergy and make
arrangements with a funeral home.
What if we want our loved one buried in another city or state?
If you would like to have your loved one buried in
another city or state, you will still need to contact a local funeral
director to help you in making arrangements for transportation and
arrangements in the city or state where you wish to have the burial.
Please be advised that you will be required to pay charges for both
funeral homes used, the one making arrangements for sending and the one
What is a death certificate?
The death certificate is the official document to
verify the death of an individual. The funeral director will ask
you for information so that he or she can complete the death certificate.
The following information will be needed for the funeral director to
complete the death certificate: (1) the full name of the deceased (2)
the Social Security Number (3) name of parents (4) mother's maiden
name (5) place and date of birth (6) name of doctor (7) Military service
information if applicable.
How many certified copies of the death certificate should I order?
Your funeral director will order as many certified
copies of the death certificate as you would like. You will need
several of the certified copies to take care of final details related to
any accounts, all insurance policies, to transfer property, and to make
official notifications. It is recommended that you order 10-15
copies now through the funeral director (or more if there is a large
estate). You can order additional copies later through the office
of Vital Statistics, however it may be time consuming to do it at a
Why would an autopsy be
An autopsy may be performed if there are questions
about the cause of death. Family may also request an autopsy if
the cause was unknown. You may hear the term 'medical
examiner's case' or a 'coroner's case' when an
autopsy is going to be performed. If an autopsy is
performed, the funeral director will be in contact with the Medical
Examiner's Office to determine the earliest time for the funeral
director to make funeral arrangements. If your loved one's death
has been classified as a medical examiner's case, you are asked to
contact the Medical Examiner's Office when you have selected a funeral
home. You may reach them at (602) 506-3322.
Why do I need to contact the Social Security Administration?
It is necessary to contact the Social Security
Administration to report the death of your loved one and to stop any
unwarranted Social Security payments. Contacting Social Security
will also help to prevent any penalties as well as help to protect the
identity of the person who has died. You will also want to discuss
survivor's benefits for a spouse or minor children. You can reach
the Social Security Administration at 1-800-772-1213.
They are available M - F from 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. Their website
have to hire a lawyer?
You may not have to, but it is strongly advised that
you seek the advise of a probate attorney. Handling an estate can
be very complex work. It is advised that you talk to an attorney
to determine how best to handle the will, the estate, claims, taxes and
probate. Being responsible for the estate of another is a
tremendous legal responsibility, you will want to get the professional
advice and services that you need to make sure that the estate is
handled according to Arizona law. See the worksheet on the
Resources page to help you collect
information to present to an attorney when discussing your case.
What do I need to do
after the funeral?
In the first week or so after the death, it will be
important to collect necessary documents for meeting with your attorney
and to begin processing benefits, claims and beginning the probate
See the Resources
page for tools to help you track and organize information
in the weeks and months ahead.
The kinds of things to be collecting include:
(1) Certified and photo copies of the death
certificate. There is a cost for the certified copies, so ask the
agencies you are dealing with whether they need a certified copy or if a
photo copy will suffice.
(2) All insurance policies should be collected,
even if they appear to be no longer effective, keep all policies at this
point. Collect auto, home, health and life insurance policies.
Also look for insurance policies issued from professional organizations,
credit card companies, an employer, accident policies and long-term care
policies. At this point all of these may be beneficial. Keep
them in a safe place. Be sure to check in the safe deposit box if
there is one.
(3) Collect and record the Social Security
numbers for the spouse and any dependents.
(4) Keep safe any discharge papers from service
in the U.S. Military.
(5) Locate any marriage license or decree of
divorce. You can get copies at the office of the County Clerk
where the marriage license was issued.
(6) Locate birth certificates for dependent
children. See the
for contact information for obtaining birth and death
certificates from any state.
(7) If there was a will or any trust documents,
keep them safe and take them to your lawyer as soon as feasible.
Make and keep a copy for your records. Be sure to take any and all
wills that may exist, as well as anything termed "codicil", which is an
addition or amendment to a will.
(8) Create a complete list of the property.
This includes real estate, business, and business partnerships, stocks,
bonds, accounts, equipment, livestock and personal property of the
deceased. Our Meeting With an Attorney worksheet
on the Resources page is a
helpful tool to keep track of this kind of information. Keep any titles to property you find with this list.
Use this information when you talk to or meet with an
attorney so that he or she can give you the most accurate information
regarding the procedures and costs to handle this estate.
do I do with the will?
Once you locate the will of the deceased, keep it in
a safe place. Make a copy of it for your records and take the
original to your attorney. If you are having difficulty locating
the will, check with the deceased person's attorney. Determine if
there is a safe deposit box. Look through the personal files and
papers of the deceased person.
if there is no will?
If there is no will, then you will hear the term
"intestate," which means without a will. When someone dies without
a will, the court will appoint someone to act as the personal
representative of the estate. The property will be dispersed to family according to state law.
Probate means 'proving the will.' However
the term probate is used much more generally and often includes the
process of having the will accepted by the court and oversight of the
administration of the estate. This includes caring for the
property, paying allowable claims, costs of administration and taxes, distributing the estate assets to
the lawful beneficiaries and closing the estate. These functions
are usually carried out by the person named in the will to act as the
personal representative. If no one is named as the personal
representative, the probate court will appoint someone as defined by
What is an
executor or personal representative?
If there is a will, it will typically name someone as
the personal representative or 'executor' of the estate. (The term
"executor" is an old term, in Arizona the courts use the term "personal
representative" to mean the same as executor.) The personal
representative will work closely with the attorney to ensure that the
final details are handled according to state probate laws. The
personal representative will submit the will to the court, inventory
property, pay allowable claims and taxes, identify assets, distribute
property to the rightful beneficiary or heir and
close the estate. If you are responsible to act as the personal
property should be transferred until proper authorization has been
obtained. Your attorney will help with this. If you are
serving as the personal representative, inform beneficiaries that you
will keep all of the property safe and distribute gifts when authorized
to do so. It will be your job to safeguard property and keep beneficiaries informed of
the status of the case and property.
Who can be the personal
If the personal representative has not been named, or
the person died intestate (without a will), then there are laws
regarding who can be named to serve as the personal representative.
Your attorney can assist you in determining who should serve as the
personal representative for the estate.
When a family chooses, Leslie Mann-Damon, a Certified
Fiduciary in private practice may be appointed by the court to serve as the
Personal Representative of the estate. Please call us if you are
interested in additional information about this option.
If I am the personal representative, is there anyone who can help?
To begin with, your attorney and their staff will be
a valuable resource. If you don't have an attorney and need to
hire one, find one that you are comfortable working with, it may be a
long process. You may want to consult family and friends or refer
to the Arizona Bar Association for a listing of lawyers specializing in
If you would like help with performing
responsibilities of the personal representative, this is our specialty.
Next Steps for Families, LLC will work closely with you and your
attorney and assist you with all of the responsibilities related to
serving as the personal representative and caring for all aspects of the
real and personal property.
Please call us for a consultation to see how best we
can meet the needs of your family and the estate.
What is a fiduciary?
Fiduciary literally means, the highest form of legal
trust. A fiduciary is someone who accepts the responsibility of
taking care of the needs or property of another person for the benefit
of that person. The fiduciary serves in a role of trust. Fiduciaries
serve by court-appointment as guardians, conservators or personal
representatives of estates. They also serve by agreement as
trustees, representative payees for Social Security income or other
income benefit plans, or as agents under powers of attorney.
(Arizona Fiduciary Association). Fiduciaries must be certified by
the Licensing and Certification Division of the Supreme Court of Arizona
Where do I get
copies of birth certificates?
You can order birth and death certificates through
Vital Statistics. Visit their website for more
information about ordering birth and death certificates. Their
website also provides information and regulations for ordering certificates from
Arizona, as well as other
What else do I need to know?
You will find the assistance of many professionals
especially helpful in the coming months. Caring for the final
details of an estate can be very complex, you deserve the assistance
professionals have to offer in taking care of these final details.
Consider the services of an experienced probate
attorney, an accountant or tax advisor, professional fiduciary and
others who can ease some of the burden and ensure that the details are
completed in accordance with the laws of Arizona.
Call Next Steps for Families, LLC for assistance.
We can arrange for third-party services,
assess the needs of surviving family members and provide help processing
and caring for the property.
family is fighting over everything, what can we do?
After a loss in the family, emotions are often tender
and disputes may arise. Next Steps for
Families, LLC can conduct a formal family meeting or mediation to help
communicate the processes as well as help families to work through
issues related to the property.
Why is identity theft prevention an issue after someone has passed away?
Unfortunately, there are many stories about spouses
and family members who find out that someone has used the personal
information of their deceased loved one to obtain credit and create
debt. The creditors then come after the family. The family
may not be responsible for the debt, however they are likely to get
multiple inquiries, demand letters and phone calls until the situation
is properly handled.
At Next Steps for Families, LLC we utilize an
identity theft prevention process to help protect personal information
and offer a document destruction service to eliminate unnecessary
Please see the
Information page regarding fraudulent schemes targeted at
the families of recently deceased family members.
What is an
An assessment is an interview with the surviving
spouse or family to obtain information to determine their preferences
and to help identify services that they may like or benefit from.
We also assess the environment for both issues of safety and
convenience. We will discuss individual preferences and identify
services that may be useful to consider during this time of transition.
We will arrange a consultation with qualified providers for services of
interest to you for surviving family members.
If the deceased was a Veteran who received a
discharge other than dishonorable, survivors may be eligible for a
lump-sum payment of $300.00 for burial expenses, as well as $150.00
toward a burial plot in a private cemetery. Burial is free for
Veterans, their spouses and dependent children in a VA National
Cemetery. Veterans are also eligible for a headstone or grave
marker and a flag at no charge. Your funeral director will help you with the
process of applying for these benefits. If the Veteran was
receiving disability payments, the spouse and dependent children may be
entitled to monthly payments. Check with your regional
Veterans' Affairs Office
to determine eligibility.
the surviving spouse, what steps do I need to take next?
After the funeral, use the Next Steps worksheet
on the Resources page
to help you determine what needs to be done next.
With regards to the details of the property, keep the
following in mind:
Insurance policies: As the
survivor you may need to determine if the beneficiaries you have listed
on your own insurance policies are correct. They may need updated.
You should also review accuracy and coverage for other policies such as
auto, home and long-term care.
This also applies to other accounts and
titles on property. You should review titles on
automobiles, your home and other property and make necessary changes.
Another consideration is medical insurance.
If the deceased's employer covered you or any dependents with medical
insurance, you would still be eligible for coverage for up to 36 months
as long as you pay the premiums. You will need to look at the
coverage and premiums and consider whether to continue this coverage or
make other arrangements for coverage.
As mentioned above, the titles to accounts will need
to be updated to reflect the proper beneficiaries. You may want to
contact an attorney for assistance.
Your will, durable power of attorney and advanced
directives should also be updated to reflect the proper instructions and
beneficiaries. You may want to contact your attorney for
With regards to credit cards, cancel cards that were
held exclusively in the name of the deceased person. Payment for a
credit card held in the deceased person's name alone will be paid for by
the estate. If the account was jointly held, contact the credit
card company to have the name on the card updated. Be sure to
continue making payments on cards that have your name on them.
I am so down, what should I do?
Grief and mourning over the loss of someone you love
is very difficult. We have listed a number of support groups and
counselors specializing in grief on the
and reading materials and articles that you may find helpful on the
Resources page. You
are in our thoughts and prayers as you go through this difficult time.