If a loved one has recently passed away, our team sends their sincere condolences for your loss. You’re undoubtedly grieving, and you may also have pressing questions about what to do next.
At DeMayo Law Offices, we help families find their footing after an accident or tragic loss. The information below may be able to help you navigate the next steps and more.
Following the death of a loved one, your family will need to make arrangements with a mortuary or crematorium. You should also contact the county coroner and make arrangements to handle the care of dependents and/or pets.
Next, get other family members involved. Don’t shoulder the burden alone. Delegate tasks to help manage specific aspects of the process (e.g., notifying friends and family, making burial or cremation arrangements, tracking down estate plans or a will, etc.).
Finally, contact your loved one’s employer if he or she was working, and request information about benefits and any payments due. Don’t forget to ask about whether a life-insurance policy exists through the company.
A Few Days Later…
Once you’ve caught your breath, it’s time to make some important decisions.
Working with a funeral director or mortuary service provider, you’ll need to answer these two questions:
- Is the preference burial or cremation?
- What type of funeral service will you have?
Whatever you decide, you and your family will need to find a location for the services, and, if applicable, the burial site. You may also need to make decisions about the preparation for services.
In some cases, these questions may already be answered if the deceased left funeral plans in a will, trust, or other binding documents.
At this point, you may also need to address your loved one’s financial situation. Once the bank is notified of the death, they’ll freeze all accounts including credit cards, loans, and term deposits.
A bank can only take instruction regarding a deceased person’s accounts from someone authorized to act on behalf of the deceased’s estate.
This process may include probate or letters of administration from a court if no formal estate planning has been prepared. If a will exists, you’ll need to take it to the appropriate county or city office to have it accepted for probate.
A trust or estate attorney can help you transfer assets or assist with any probate issues that may arise.
Other things to consider might include:
- Canceling utilities and/or other automated services
- Contacting any agencies that provided benefits to the deceased
- Working with police to ensure the deceased’s property is protected if it is vacant
Now is also a good time to contact an experienced accident attorney if the death of your loved one was caused by another person’s negligence or careless behavior.
Wrongful Death Claims
Although criminal charges may be filed against a defendant for illegal behaviors like drinking and driving, criminal proceedings are not designed to remedy specific financial losses in the event a death occurs.
Conversely, North Carolina’s civil court system allows certain family members to file a wrongful death claim against a liable party.
A representative of the deceased’s estate often referred to as an executor, can file the claim as well as family members appointed by a judge.
Click here to learn more about who can file a wrongful death claim.
Wrongful death claims can help recover damages including:
- Medical expenses
- Funeral and burial expenses
- Lost income
- Pain and suffering the deceased endured before death
- Loss of the deceased person’s services; and
- Loss of society, companionship, and comfort
In some cases, punitive damages (damages intended to punish the defendant) are awarded in wrongful death cases.
While no amount of money can replace your loss, financial compensation can help ease recovery while adjusting to life without your loved one.