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Initial Steps Upon Death

Although it is tempting to tackle legal matters immediately after the death of a loved one, most legal paperwork requires original death certificates. Before ordering death certificates, first determine how many certified copies you need. Start with two and then add one per financial institution and/or credit card of the decedent.

You or your funeral director will need to notify the Social Security office of the death. This step is important if you suspect that the surviving family members may be entitled to receive Social Security benefits. You must also return any Social Security benefits received for the month of death and beyond.

Make sure to collect the decedent’s mail. Pay attention to bills, financial statements, notices and subscriptions. Next, notify creditors and subscription services (magazines, cell phone, internet, etc.) to avoid charges and fees. Be prepared to present a death certificate.

Before contacting an attorney, begin gathering important including documents:

  1. Wills and codicils
  2. Trusts
  3. Most recent bank statements for which decedent’s name appears
  4. Other assets and certificates on which decedent’s name appears
  5. Most recent statements for all investment accounts


It is important be aware of all legal and tax deadlines. Begin the process of administering your loved one’s estate by contacting Bryant Elder Law. We work hard to make an overwhelming and emotional time simpler by alleviating worry about legal matters.

We offer a free initial consultation.

Call (408) 286-2122 to get started.

Bryant Elder Law has offices in San Jose and San Mateo for your convenience.