Important Steps After Someone Dies


Losing a family member or loved one is a difficult process for everyone, and attempting to handle an estate on top of your grieving can prove burdensome, to say the least.  In an attempt to ease some of the burden, we have compiled a list of important documents to locate after someone dies.  Locating these documents early, and, if possible, before your loved one falls ill will assist you and your estate attorney in administering and settling the estate’s affairs.

Estate Planning Documents

Determining whether your loved one had an Estate Plan is the most important preliminary assessment. If the decedent had an estate plan, then copies or originals of the following documents will be needed:

  • Last Will & Testament (and any Codicil(s)) : Originals of these documents are the desired, however, in Kentucky, copies can be probated, if necessary.
  • Revocable Living Trust: Usually a copy of the trust or amendment is all that is required.

Death Certificates

Multiple, original death certificates will be required to settle the decedent’s final affairs. It is recommended to order a minimum of ten.

Asset information

Copies or originals of the following documents will be needed:

    • Deeds for Real Estate – A file-stamped copy or original is needed.
    • Account Statements – Including bank accounts, brokerage accounts, and retirement accounts (IRAs, 401(k)s and annuities) for at least a few months prior to death.
    • Life Insurance Policies – finding the original Policy is desired.
    • Beneficiary Designations – For all “payable on death” or “transferable on death” accounts.
    • Automobile and Boat Titles – The original titles will be required to transfer legal title.
    • Stock and Bond Certificates – For stocks or bonds held in certificate form, the original certificate will be required to transfer legal title.

Tax Returns

Copies of the following tax returns will be needed:

    • Income Tax Returns: federal and state for the past three years
    • Gift Tax Returns (if any): federal and state


Copies of the following bills will be needed:

    • Utility Bills
    • Cell Phone Bills
    • Credit Card Bills
    • Mortgages and Personal Loans – including lines of credit
    • Real Estate Tax Bills
    • Storage Unit Bills
    • Medical Bills
    • Funeral Bill


Copies or originals of the following contracts will be needed:

    • Prenuptial Agreements – Including any amendments.
    • Postnuptial Agreements – Including any amendments.
    • Loans – Including personal loans, lines of credit, and mortgages, along with the original promissory note.
    • Leases – Including real estate and automobile leases.

Keep in mind this often overwhelming process, makes planning ahead of time, imperative.  Our clients experience peace of mind, knowing their loved ones will not have to endure additional burdens during a time of deep loss.  Make sure to have the conversation now, so you can be better prepared in the future.   For more information on your next steps, please contact Mattingly Ford, PSC, for a free consultation regarding you and your family’s Estate Planning (click through link back to Estate Planning Page) or Probate (click through back to Probate/Estate Planning Page) needs.