It’s not uncommon to be unsure of what to do after someone dies in Florida. Naturally, your emotions may be all over the place. But there are a variety of legal and financial matters that need taking care of.
In this blog, we’ve created a step-by-step checklist for what to do after someone dies in Florida. Note that this checklist does not cover every circumstance, so more complex situations may require extra tasks.
Here’s what to do after someone dies in Florida:
1. Make Notice of the Death
The first step to getting a death certificate is to make an official declaration of the death. This is a critical task.
If someone has died in care, such as in a hospital or nursing home, then the staff will handle the legal pronouncement of the death.
However, if your loved one died at home or elsewhere, a medical professional will be required to declare the death. Call 911 immediately. Your loved one will be transported to an emergency room and can be declared dead. The body can then be moved to a funeral home.
Next, you should contact family and friends or other important people in your loved one’s life about the death or make a notice on social media.
You may need to notify:
- Federal agencies that may provide benefits.
- Health insurance provider
- USPS (for postal forwarding)
- Florida Department of Motor Vehicles – to prevent identity theft.
- Subscription providers
- Membership organizations
2. Visit the Deceased’s Home
If authorized, go to the deceased home and gather all the relevant legal documents, financial documents and estate planning documents. The first priority is discovering their organ donation and burial plans.
- Will documents
- Health Care Power of Attorney Documents
Always secure the home before leaving.
3. Discover Organ Donation Beliefs
You must discover their organ donation wishes as soon as possible and inform the funeral home as soon as possible. This information is found on their driver’s license or Advanced Care Directives.
4. What Happens to the Body?
The final disposition refers to someone’s wishes for what happens to their body after death, such as a burial or cremation.
If you or a loved one haven’t been told in advance, then you may find it in their will. However, quite often, people don’t make plans.
Financing for the final disposition can be provided by:
- A trust
- Beneficiaries advancing money
- Borrowing money from a loved one
5. Make Funeral Plans
Contact the funeral home to make plans for the funeral. You should also write an obituary, either yourself or by a suitable friend or relative.
- If there are funds in the deceased’s estate, it will usually reimburse the person who paid for the funeral, cremation, or burial.
- If your loved one was in the military, contact the Veteran Administration to see what burial or funeral services are available.
- Contact relatives and friends to assist with funeral roles.
6. Contact a Florida Estate Planning Attorney
We now get to the more financial and legally focused matters of what to do after someone dies in Florida.
Relatives and heirs will soon ask how they can get their share of the inheritance. What happens to the house? The car? What if there was a trust? These are all common questions.
By speaking to a Florida estate planning attorney, you can gain a ‘road map’ specific to your loved one’s estate.
They can also protect you from making any simple yet costly mistakes in the administration process and prevent family tensions or doubt from arising.
They will help you understand:
- If probate is required
- How will trusts be administered
- How to handle any beneficiary disputes
- How post-death expenses are paid
- If asset appraisals required
- What estate taxes are due
- How and when to distribute the estate
7. Secure Copies of the Death Certificate
Proof of the death is vital to handle the estate after someone dies in Florida. The funeral home you’re working with can provide copies of the death certificate. It is advised that you have around ten copies.
8. Take The Will to Probate
Probate is the court-supervised process of proving a will, gathering assets, paying creditors and distributing the estate.
The person named as the executor in the will should now take the will to the county or city probate court office.
If there is no will, the Florida probate court will decide who the estate is shared with and how.
Note: In Florida, the last will and testament must be filed with the court within 10 days of the death. If you cannot find it, it may be in a safety deposit box.
9. Other Administrative Proceedings
If the decedent had a trust, the successor trustee must be appointed to administer the trust’s assets. This can be completed with the help of a Florida trust administration attorney.
The new trustee’s first role is usually to file a ‘Notice of Trust’ in the county where the decedent lived.
10. Identify and List All Assets and Liabilities
A Florida probate administration attorney can help you identify if your loved one had any of the following and gather the appropriate documents:
- Annuity Contracts
- Balance sheet
- Bank Statements
- Business Interests – corporations, limited liability companies (LLCs), limited partnerships (LPs), real estate investment trusts (REITs)
- Car Loans
- Car Titles
- Credit Card Statements
- Investment Statements
- Income Statements
- Life Insurance Contracts
- Real Estate
- Retirement Account Statements – IRAs, 401(k)s, Pension Plans, etc.
11. Gather and Preserve Estate Assets
The Personal Representative or Successor Trustee should next gather and preserve the value of all assets of the estate. With the help of a Florida probate administration attorney or Florida trust administration attorney, you can ensure you do this optimally and without mistake.
12. Distribute and Transfer Estate
One of the final things to do after someone dies in Florida now arrives – you can get to distributing and transferring the estate to the beneficiaries. This will include:
- Paying outstanding debts.
- Following the instructions in the will.
- Following any commitments listed in the Trust.
Please note that this list is not exhaustive and there may be many areas specific to your circumstances that are not covered here. It is highly advised that you speak to a Florida estate planning attorney as soon as possible after someone dies in Florida.
Contact a Florida Probate Administration Attorney
After someone dies in Florida, please feel free to contact our Florida probate administration attorneys or Florida trust administration attorneys.
We know this is maybe a very emotional time for all involved and legal matters can seem daunting and complicated. Our team will guide you through the process, ensuring you do everything in line with the law and for your family’s best interests.
Battaglia, Ross, Dicus & McQuaid, P.A. is U.S. News and World Reports Tier 1 law firm in Florida, specializing in Estate Planning & Probate since 1958. With award-winning experienced attorneys, they can help you in any area of Estate Planning and Family Law.
Schedule a free consultation today to get started or to get any questions answered.