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The probate process: initial tasks

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  1. In the event the decedent made no provision for anatomical gifts, many states allow you to make that decision. In most jurisdictions, the funeral director can obtain certified copies of the death certificate for you (you will need several copies).
  2. Word of mouth may not travel in time for the funeral.
  3. Locate the will, birth certificate, marriage certificate, Social Security card, and any other relevant documents.
  4. Note the location and value (you may need to retain an appraiser) of all real estate, insurance policies, jewelry, and other assets. Make sure assets are adequately insured.
  5. Inform the Social Security Administration to stop payments that were being made to the decedent. Inquire about survivor's benefits.
  6. Investigate the existence of any veteran's benefits, private pensions, or life insurance and make claims at this time.
  7. Contact an attorney to assist you. He or she can help you determine whether probate is needed.