Family comes together when a loved one passes away. You're all there for each other emotionally. You offer support and help one another get through a difficult time. Even when it's expected, that doesn't necessarily mean it's easier. You need that support system.
At the same time that you deal with the emotional side of things, though, you also want to think about the realistic side. What steps do you need to take? What obligations do you have?
Attend to the funeral
First off, you must attend to the funeral. Your loved one may have made some plans themselves, such as buying a burial plot or even planning out all of the specifics, such as what songs to play at the memorial service. On the other hand, they may have done no planning at all, and you and your family members have to work together. Things to consider include:
- What type of burial to have
- What type of service to hold
- If you want to use options like cremation or alkaline hydrolysis
- When and where to hold the service
- Who to invite
- What personal touches pay tribute to your loved one
Some of these decisions are simple, such as figuring out who wants to speak or what type of flowers to have near the casket. Some decisions are more complex, such as choosing a headstone or determining how you'll pay for the burial services. Remember that the decisions are up to you, but you need to consider the estate plan, especially when looking at the costs. Some people leave money behind to cover these costs, or they use insurance policies, while others do not.
Attend to the assets
With the funeral taken care of, you must think about the assets. You need to divide that person's estate.
The first thing to do is to find out if they had a will and an estate plan. If so, it should guide your decisions. You need to make sure it is valid and consider all of the various choices your loved one made.
A simple estate plan may just instruct you to fairly divide assets between the immediate heirs or the person's children. A more complex plan could:
- Put money into trusts
- Leave money to grandchildren
- Leave money to charities
- Divide up business assets
- Leave money specifically for taxes and other debts
Every plan is different. Many people don't plan at all. Find out what your loved one wanted and then consider anything they may have overlooked. Be prepared for a rather long process, as dividing assets can get contentious when everyone doesn't agree and even takes a while when things go smoothly due to the sheer amount of assets many people own. Be sure you know your legal rights.