What To Do Upon The Death Of A Family Member

Upon the death of a family member the executor or trustee of a trust should take the following steps. You may wish to contact your attorney for assistance with many of these tasks.

  • Notify family members and arrange for the funeral. Ask the funeral director for an adequate supply of death certificates (a minimum of five). If the executor or trustee is not an immediate family member, the executor or trustee will most likely not arrange for the funeral.
  • Locate the names of the decedent's attorney, accountant, insurance agent and other professional advisers and ask for any assistance. The attorney may assist with many of the following tasks.
  • Notify the agencies from which the decedent was receiving benefits. Those benefits may include Social Security, Railroad Retirement, and any pension. The decedent is not entitled to the Social Security payment for the month following death because Social Security is always a month behind. A Social Security recipient must live for an entire month to be entitled to the next month's payment.
  • Claims for life insurance and death benefits should be filed. You may wish to ask for assistance from the attorney.
  • Identify all assets owned by the decedent, whether in joint tenancy, trust, or individual name. Schedule an appointment with the attorney to discuss how to proceed with the estate or trust.
  • File the Will with the Clerk of the Court for the county in which the decedent lived or had real estate and notify beneficiaries of the Will or trust. Open a probate estate with the court, if necessary.
  • File decedent's final income tax return, if required.
  • File Federal and Illinois Estate Tax Return, if necessary (due 9 months after date of death).
  • Pay debts of the decedent, if any.
  • File income tax returns for probate estate or trust if there is any income after date of death and prior to distribution of assets. Obtain a tax identification number for the estate or trust by filing Form SS-4 with the IRS. The Social Security number of the decedent should not be used for trust or estate income tax returns.
  • Distribute the trust or probate estate to the beneficiaries at the appropriate time.