Someone dies, you're next of kin, what is the process of handling everything like?

I mean the process when you’re in charge of everything.

When a person dies, the funeral usually takes place within a week in my experience. What if you dont have however many thousands of dollars it costs for a funeral?

What if the deceased had a life insurance policy but they were a horribly disorganized person and the beneficiary either didn’t know they were the beneficiary or if they did, they have no idea where the papers for the policy are? When a death certificate is issued, is some kind of notice sent out to all insurance companies and the beneficiary gets a letter in the mail?

What if the person has a mortgage. Say a 30 year with 3 years left. They willed the house to you, but you cant afford the payments along with your own. Yeah, I know, sell the house. But how do you handle it if you cant find documents to get a handle on the deceased financial obligations?

How does handling death work? Who does one consult?

In the UK, a probate lawyer.

And what does that cost?

*You should be prepared to pay a fee to meet the lawyer. If you’re hiring a lawyer to do an uncontested probate, though, the chances are that he or she will handle the matter for a flat fee, which in most instances is set by statute. Regardless, it doesn’t hurt when making an appointment to ask what the fee for the first meeting would be.

Use your common sense and gut instincts to evaluate the remaining lawyers on your list.*
You’ve got a few days to bury the person which is gonna cost thousands. Then you gotta hire a lawyer.

It’s quite common for a person not to have an extra 10 grand or so just sitting around doing nothing. Where do people get the money to pay for funerals and hire lawyers when they are an only child, struggling to make ends meet, then they learn on some random tuesday at 11am that their parent died?

Sometimes they don’t. The body sits at the coroner’s office or morgue until some time period has passed and then with be disposed of, usually in a mass grave. They don’t call it a “pauper’s grave” anymore, but there’s a similar term nowadays. (Chicago’s City Morgue is in a bit of hot water at the moment, because when the state cut their funding, they ran out of funds to bury all their bodies. They’ve literally been stacking bodies in unrefrigerated hallways because they don’t know what else to do with them.)

If you go to the bank with a death notice in hand, I’m sure they can help point you in the right direction. After all, they’d like their mortgage payments, and if they can get them from you, great. If not, they’d prefer you sell it and give them their money, instead of costing them a foreclosure.

But, like most problems, if you ignore it, it will go away. If you do nothing but take the personal effects you want from the home, walk away and lock the door, the bank will eventually foreclose on it and sell it to someone else.

(Is this a hypothetical at this point? I hope so. If not, I’m sorry for your loss, and sorry you have to deal with all this stuff at a rough time in your life.)

You have to send a copy to each of the insurance companies, banks, etc. The mortuary will ask you how many you think you will need. You can always get more copies from the county clerk.

Once they receive the certificate, they will usually deal with the spouse, or the executor, as they would have dealt with the deceased. Usually. If the accounts were set up with a death-beneficiary clause, they will simply transfer to the name of the beneficiary. If not, there will be paperwork to fill out. But, like WhyNot said, it is in their interest to get things squared away quickly.

I’ll point out that a simple cremation costs under $1000. (good username combo here)

Don;t let the vultures at the funeral parlor talk you into anything more. Any more of a funeral is only needed if there is a lot of family, it helps them grieve, sometimes.

Just tell them simple cremation, no ceremony, no service, no coffin.

If the parent was a veteran, call the VFW.

You mean you send one to each insurance company and bank in the country?

So you go through the phone book and send a copy to every insurance co. and bank? Fishing essentially?

Well, I suppose you could, but ideally there would be papers lying around somewhere that would help target that. A checkbook or check register. Piles of unopened mail. Things like that.

And this, kiddies, is why people need to have this kind of stuff organized and documented so the executor can figure it all out :(.

Ransack the house looking for the papers, or a check book/bank book, that would at least indicate whom payments were going to. I think, who holds the paper on the house is available at the land registry office. Once you know that, go to the bank and ask for their advice. They will know what’s owing, what’s equity, and based on that, will offer you some solutions until you can get things sorted better. Don’t decide anything in the bank. Go home and think about it.

That’s really what I was trying to get at. Is there any method other than sitting among a pile of papers and calling customer service (god help us) and piecing things together.

Yeah, you need to get a lawyer. Who prepared the Will? It is possible that they may have asset information already. And most Wills have provisions that state that the attorney fees, taxes and final expenses will be paid from the decedent’s estate.

As for the mortgage, that is something that may also be addressed in the Will. Another reason to find a good probate attorney.

Going through their mail will help figure some things. This is one of the reasons I don’t go email only with the companies I deal with. What if I die? If the company sends out a monthly bill, at least my next of kin will be able to figure it all out.

The executor is the one authorized to contact the bank, life insurance, investments, etc. Just because you’re related doesn’t mean you can get access to any accounts. Hopefully there is a will which names who the executor will be. If there is not a will, you have to go to the probate office in your city and fill out some forms. If there is a spouse then they will be made the executor. If no spouse, then maybe the parents. If no parents, then the oldest child, etc. You will need to work with your probate office on the details.

Once an executor has been named, he or she can access funds in the deceased bank account to pay for funeral expenses. The executor can also use estate’s money to pay for the mortgage and other required expenses.

If you can find a life insurance policy, the executor will contact the insurance company with the death certificate and the insurance company will pay the value of the policy. They usually pay pretty quickly, so these funds could also be used to pay for funeral expenses.

Unfortunately there’s not a central location where you can say a person died and everyone gets notified. You’ll have to piece everything together from whatever info you can find.

I am not a lawyer, and I am not an expert, but I have some firsthand experience.
All my personal experience is limited to the U.S. The following is not advice and is for entertainment purposes only.

You don’t need to fish for life insurance. The insurance industry has a policy locator service that can be used to find out if a deceased had life insurance. Details can be found here.

I have not personally used that service, it is just something I stumbled across and filed away in my memory. I think there is a nominal cost involved. I do not know if it is guaranteed to find every policy that a person has. Basically, I am just pointing it out as a possible resource.

Also, it is helpful to keep the deceased’s mailing address valid (if possible) for at least a year. Annual life insurance premium payment notices, bank statements for CDs, 1099s indicating the existence of investments that otherwise do not generate paper notices, annual bills for safe deposit boxes, etc., and other important clues will eventually come in the mail. Also check the details of credit card statements to see if there are any payments to insurance companies there.

Basically, the estate is responsible for debts. The few wills that I have seen call for the estate to pay for the deceased’s final arrangements (burial, etc.) first. Credit card debt and other unsecured debt does not pass on to heirs in the U.S. The estate is responsible.

Along with the death certificate, if you are the executor, you frequently need something called “letters of office” or something like that. It is a court-issued document that says you are the executor, if my memory serves me correctly. The probate lawyer will get this for you.

The executor will have to discuss things with a lawyer (and the estate can pay for that, as well), but once the process is familiar a reasonably competent executor can handle simple things like closing the deceased’s accounts, etc. without a lawyer directly overseeing each step of the process. The will may even make provisions for the executor to receive payment for services.

If the estate is of any size, an inventory of assets will have to be made.

If the estate does not have enough in assets to pay for a funeral and you personally cannot or do not want to pay for a funeral, then you would discuss the matter with other family members. Either someone or a some number of people will step up, or you will all come to the realization that having a fancy funeral (or even “having a funeral”) for the person in question is not that important to anyone.

I am sure funeral homes are used to people not having thousands of dollars on hand to pay right away, and will be able to suggest some sort of billing or financing arrangement.

If you are in the U.S., social security will pay a $255 death benefit. It’s not much, but better than a poke in the eye with a stick.

Don’t let credit card companies or creditors try to bully you into paying the deceased’s unsecured debts if the estate is not large enough to pay them. Unscrupulous creditors may say you have an obligation to pay when you don’t, or that it is a matter of honor, or anything else if they think they can cajole you into paying off the deceased’s debts.