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Practical Steps to Take After Death

What should I do after someone dies?

The time right after the death of a close friend or loved one can be overwhelming, especially when faced with an unfamiliar set of tasks. The focus in the immediate days after a person's death may be on funeral arrangements and a memorial service. Soon after, you will need to take care of financial and legal matters. Many people find it difficult to handle everything on their own. You should ask friends and family members for help and support during this time.

The tasks you will need to do fall into four areas:

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What documents should I look for after someone dies?

You should try to find the following documents as soon as possible after the person's death, although it is possible that the person may not have any of these documents:

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Where can I find the documents I need?

It can be hard to find documents left behind by the person who died. You should start by looking in the person's home, including file cabinets, safes, or even in the freezer (which protects documents from fire). You can also contact the person's lawyer who might have originals or copies of some of the person's documents. You can search Courtview to see if the decedent deposited their will with the court.  Look for a case number that ends in “WI” such as 1WR-13-22457WI (See case example Adobe Acrobat PDF logo). Although many people keep important papers in a safe deposit box, you will not be able to access the box after the person's death unless there is a joint depositor or you have been appointed the Personal Representative of the person's estate. If you think that the person's Will might be in a safe deposit box, you will need to ask the probate court for a special order that allows you to access the box. It is a good idea to talk to a probate lawyer if you need access to the person's safe deposit box before opening a probate.

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Who should I notify immediately about the person's death?

You should tell the following people as soon as possible that the person has died:

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How do I make funeral arrangements?

You should do the following things:

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What should I do at the funeral home?

Making decisions at the funeral home can be difficult. You should bring someone with you for support. If you are the spouse of the person who died, you should also bring a copy of your Marriage Certificate. You will need to do the following things:

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What other arrangements should I make for the funeral service?

You will need to:

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What financial and legal tasks should I do after the service?

After the memorial service and funeral, you will need to take care of other financial and legal matters. Some of the things you can do right away, if appropriate, are:

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What documents will I need to complete the tasks?

You may need one or more of the following documents:

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How do I transfer the person's property to others?

A probate is necessary to transfer property of the person who died if he or she owned property that does not automatically pass to someone else. If the property meets certain conditions, you can collect property without a court case and avoid probate. If so, you can use:

You should review the Background Information about Probate. If no probate is needed or if you are able to use an Affidavit for Collection of Personal Property, you should review the section on transferring property. If the person who died created a trust, you should review the section on Trusts and arrange for the successor Trustee to take control of the person's property.

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What does a Temporary Property Custodian do?

A Temporary Property Custodian is someone who takes temporary control of tangible personal property of the person who died to keep it safe. Tangible personal property means property such as furniture, housewares, clothing, jewelry, artwork, firearms, vehicles, equipment, tools, heirlooms or photographs. It does not include cash, checks or bank accounts.

Taking temporary control of this type of property is most common when the person who died left belongings in someone else's care, such as leaving the contents of his or her apartment in the landlord's building. If the landlord gives the property of the person who died to a Temporary Property Custodian, the landlord will not have any further responsibility over the property. The Temporary Property Custodian must keep the property safe and give it to the Personal Representative when one is appointed or to another person who has a right to the property.

Serving as a Temporary Property Custodian is not a substitute for probate and does not give the Temporary Property Custodian any ownership rights in the property.

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How can I act as a Temporary Property Custodian?

You can sign an Affidavit for Release of Property To Temporary Custodian, P-120 Adobe Acrobat PDF logo. When you receive the tangible personal property of the person who died, you must also prepare an Inventory of Property Taken by Temporary Custodian, P-121 Adobe Acrobat PDF logo. You must follow all of the instructions on the Affidavit and Inventory. You can also ask the court to appoint you as a Temporary Property Custodian by filing an Application for Appointment as Temporary Property Custodian Under AS 22.15.110(a)(33), P-130 Adobe Acrobat PDF logo. If you are appointed by the court, you must follow the court's directions.

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Rev. 21 July 2014
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