Steps to Take After a Loved One Passes

The sad reality of life is that one can never be quite prepared enough for the death of a family member or a loved one. Such times should be a period of mourning. Yet the family of the decedent must take certain actions on behalf of the decedent. This is called “estate administration”. When it comes to taking care of their estate, it may be the last thing on your mind or you may not know where to start or even what to do first. Yet your actions or inactions may cause unintended and negative consequences you will need to resolve later on. You can minimize such unnecessary headaches by making sure certain things are done as soon as possible after someone’s death.

Below are couple checklists that may help you during this time:

I. Following the Death of a Family Member

People to call as soon as possible after death

  • Immediate family
  • Guardian for minor children
  • Executor of decedent’s Will, if any
  • Trustee of decedent’s Trust, if any
  • Person holding power of attorney (a power of attorney expires at death as a matter of law)
  • Caretaker for decedent’s pets
  • Hospital or organ bank
  • Friends and relatives
  • Decedent’s business associates
  • Agents of decedent’s Final Disposition Instructions, if any
  • Remember: When you are making arrangements with a funeral home, order a sufficient number of death certificates (one for each real property, business interest, and bank account plus few extra). It is a lot easier to order certified death certificates from the funeral home than from the county recorder’s office.

Within the week after death

  • Credit Cards: Cancel all credit cards.
  • Life Insurance: Request claim forms from life insurance company(ies)
  • Insurance: Update car and home insurance to the estate.
  • Employment: (1) Give notice of death to employer’s human resources and/or employee’s labor union; and (2) Ask about any death benefits
  • Financial Professionals: Give notice of death to stockbrokers, financial advisors, insurance agents and request beneficiary information.
  • Legal Professional: Contact an attorney experienced in probate and make an appointment.
  • Financial Institutions: Give notice of death to banks, brokerage firms, and financial securities companies, including retirement accounts, and request beneficiary information.
  • Trust: Give notice to the Trustee of any trust benefiting the decedent
  • Veteran’s administration (if applicable): Give notice of death and ask about death and survivors benefits.
  • Social Services and/or Pension Plan administrators: Give notice of death and request information about survivor’s benefit (if applicable)
  • Mail: Notify post office to forward mail.
  • Security: Secure decedent’s home (if living alone at death) and office by change locks if others had access.

Within the first month after death

  • Utility companies: Give notice of death and change the account holder
  • Memberships: Give notice of death to health or other clubs to secure reimbursements for advance membership payments
  • DMV: Give notice of death to the Department of Motor Vehicles
  • Subscriptions: Cancel subscription such as magazine or software
  • Review insurance coverage for decedent’s property and car
  • Taxes: Contact decedent’s account and determine the status of income tax returns and inquire if the accountant has experience in preparing 1041’s (estate income tax returns)
  • Estate/Legal: Talk with an attorney

II. General Estate Administration Overview

Determine if probate is necessary

Initiating administration

  • Meet with your attorney.
  • Locate all potential heirs and issues of decedent.
  • Locate all parties in interest in the estate of decedent.
  • If there’s a Will, lodge the Will with the Court within 30 days from date of death.
  • If there is a trust, locate the original trust and all amendments
  • File appropriate probate petition as necessary

Identifying and gathering assets

  • Identify and locate all safety deposit If you don’t have access, you will need to petition the court.  If you have access but anticipate an issue, have your estate attorney accompany you.
  • Search decedent’s house and other places for valuable papers and assets.
  • Review decedent’s tax return for asset information.

Preserving Assets

  • Discontinue utilities or other services that are no longer needed.
  • Update or discontinue any policies no longer needed, including car insurance policies to appropriate coverage.
  • Inspect all real estate and review any mortgages, liens, encumbrances, and leases
  • Examine all life insurance, real estate, and personal property insurance policies
  • Request ownership information from decedent’s business interests, including any shareholder’s agreement, operating agreement, buy-sell agreement, or any other contracts signed by decedent.
  • Identify creditors.
  • Give notice to potential beneficiaries.

Inventory of assets/estate tax return

  • Obtain qualified appraisal of real property, business interests, and other nonliquid assets.
  • Compare the income tax returns for the past three years and cross check with the estate tax returns.
  • File the final income tax returns and any missing income tax return.
  • Locate all jointly owned property of decedent and determine decedent’s financial contribution.
  • Investigate possibility of profit sharing or pension death benefits
  • File the required inventory of decedent’s assets with the court on a timely basis
  • Locate any and all gift tax returns filed by decedent
  • Locate any and all gifts decedent may have made within three years prior to death
  • Keep track of all estate expenses and other deductible items

Paying debts and liabilities of estate

  • Estimate administrative/estate costs, and determine whether any assets need to be sold to pay debts and liabilities.
  • Open an appropriate checking account and/or savings account for the
  • Pay debts and liabilities of the estate.

Accounting and Distribution of Assets

  • Prepare a formal or obtain a release of liability and waiver of accounting from all beneficiaries prior to any distribution.
  • If a formal accounting is required, prepare an accounting in accordance with court rules and submit decree settling account after formal accounting is
  • Distribute the assets of the estate to the person or persons entitled thereto when the estate is ready to close.


Losing a loved one can be an incredibly challenging time. Handling the administration of their passing can be frustrating and often times mourning survivors don’t know where to begin. This checklist will ensure many important matters regarding their estate are addressed.

We Can Assist in the Process

At death, necessary and important administration must take place. Whether it is trust administration, estate administration, or probate, our estate planning division has experience addressing a spectrum of estates and trusts ranging from insolvent to taxable estates. Our objective is to ensure the decedent’s estate is managed properly, effectively, and efficiently to alleviate the burdens during such a trying time. Prob. Code §7001.

(949) 421-3030


Our Estate Planning department is lead by attorney Linda Honey. Ms. Honey practices exclusively in the area of trusts, wills, estate planning, and succession planning with special expertise in advising high net worth individuals and administering taxable estates, including the preparation and review of estate tax returns. Ms. Honey has drafted, planned, and administered various irrevocable trusts, such as special needs trusts, charitable remainder trusts, intentionally defective grantor trusts, GST trusts, and dynasty trusts. Applying her experience from business litigation, she tailors every estate plan to maximize inheritance and minimize liabilities and costs for individuals, families, and businesses.

Estate Planning for All Stages of Life

LS Carlson Law offers global estate planning legal services for individuals, families, and companies of all sizes, affluency levels, and complexities. Our robust offerings include asset protection, wills, trust preparation and administration, and real estate transfers. Whether it’s a straightforward trust for an individual or family that owns a home, or a complex, high-net worth, estate plan involving multi-faceted structuring, lifetime gifting, valuations, and advanced irrevocable trust strategies, we will provide you with the estate planning and trust solutions you need to protect your family legacy.

Young Family

Mid 20s to Late 30s

You are the parents of young children, have a home, and are looking to protect your kids should something happen to you and/or your spouse.


  • Guardianship for Children (Minors)
  • Define Inheritance Criteria (Ages, Milestones, etc.)
  • Avoid Costly Probate
  • Maximize Control & Flexibility

Estate Growth

Early 40s to Late 50s

Your kids are in high school or college. You are in a state of growth in the form of asset accumulation and want to make sure that those assets are protected.

  • Protect Assets
  • Minimize Liabilities
  • Define Asset Allocation
  • Tax Reduction

Golden Years

Retirement - 60+

You are enjoying the fruits of your labor. You are thinking more about your legacy and want to make sure your wishes are met when you pass.

  • Personal Comfort
  • Healthcare Directives
  • Legacy Preservation (Asset Allocation)
  • Estate Tax Minimization

We Take Care of Everything

Exceptional estate planning requires an integrated, hands-on approach. To facilitate this process, we first partner with our clients to identify their unique financial goals and objectives and generate a comprehensive asset inventory to ensure strategic legal protection. Then, we meticulously engineer an estate plan to ensure that our clients achieve optimal results and protection. LS Carlson Law’s estate planning division offers a multitude of legal services that include:

Trust Formation

Real Estate Transfers

Business Interest Transfers

Minimize Potential Tax Liability

Will Creation

Business Succession Planning

Property Agreements

Post Death Administration

LS Carlson Law vs Other Options

LS Carlson Law

We understand there is no “one-size-fits-all” approach to estate planning. Your assets, children, wishes, and needs are unique to your situation, which is why it is critical to devise a plan specific to your circumstances. Getting this wrong could unravel your objectives and be extremely costly. We also understand needs change over the years and are active in making sure your plan remains in line with your current goals. Our team also specializes in tax law and knows what it takes to minimize your liability both now and upon any asset transfer. Simple or complex, we will ensure your estate plan holds up when it matters most.

DIY Online Form

It can be tempting to use an inexpensive website to generate a seemingly “simple” trust for your estate plan. Over the years, we have worked with countless clients that have gone this route. Without fail, these plans are almost never in line with our client’s actual goals or expectations and can have significant negative tax implications or other unforeseen liabilities. This is often due to a question within the generic online questionnaire either not being fully understood, answered incorrectly, or an important question was simply never posed.

Bargain Attorney

Using an actual estate attorney is almost always has a better outcome than the online self-service systems, however, are still not without fault. The majority of attorneys that provide bargain planning set up cookie-cutter products with the sole goal of avoiding probate. This is obviously a start but almost always falls short of our client’s expectations. Oftentimes corners are cut relating to taxes, asset allocation, succession, child guardianship, and more intimate legacy planning.





LS Carlson Law is proud to offer our clients a dynamic and effective legal team with top academic and professional credentials. Our estate planning division is well-equipped to tailor every estate plan to maximize inheritance and minimize liabilities and costs for individuals, families, and businesses. In addition to having a hard-earned reputation for legal excellence, our lawyers are also well known for their superior writing and innovative, client-centered approach. In short, the lawyers at LS Carlson Law excel because they are among the best at what they do.

It really is that simple.


Linda Honey

Senior Associate

Dominic Carucci


Paul Deese


Jeffrey Kominsky


James Calkins

Senior Associate

Ryan Davies

Senior Associate

Shelby Daws


Ramy Galal


Shane Micheil


Steven Shack


Phong Tran

Senior Associate

Justin Walley


Chris Xouleis


Alexandria Zuccolotto




85 Enterprise, Suite 310
Aliso Viejo, CA 92656

L.S. Carlson Law


85 Enterprise, Suite 310 Aliso Viejo, CA