What to do after the death of your spouse in Michigan

What to do after the death of your spouse in Michigan

Eyestone Law Offices death of a spouse If you are reading this, you or someone you love has lost a spouse.  Please accept our condolences on your loss, and be sure to tend to your own physical and mental health needs before worrying about handling the legal side of things.  After the death of your spouse in Michigan, there is often an overwhelming amount on your “to do” list as the widow or widower, but many things can wait until you are ready to work through them or can be delegated to someone else if you never want to do them.
Our firm has assembled this guide to help surviving spouses do what needs to get done and prioritize or defer what can wait.  The information provided was assembled from our own personal experience and that of our clients.  We welcome you call us or email us to provide any suggestions or updates that you think will make this guide more useful to others.

Immediately after the Death of Your Spouse in Michigan:

Contact funeral home / church for funeral arrangements.
Notify immediate family members and friends of your loss and ask that they notify their friends and family members.
Consider naming your church or a charity as an alternative to flowers.  People want to show their support for you in your time of loss, and oftentimes loads of flowers and plants to take care of can be overwhelming reminders of your loss.  Also, the charity or church can sometimes create a legacy to forever honor your loved one with the funds that are donated.
Ensure you have enough funds to take care of your immediate needs and then the funeral costs.  Do not feel pressured to pay any bills of your spouse immediately, especially if funds are tight.  If you have trouble accessing funds, contact attorney Shawn Eyestone to begin the process of obtaining access to the funds moving forward.
Secure the property of your deceased spouse.  There will almost always be people who say that they were promised something from deceased person, and it is best to simply defer their requests.  It is often easiest to just tell them that your attorney is handling those issues to make sure your loved one’s wishes were carried out.  It is much easier to keep an item than it will ever be to get it back.  There is never an emergent need for someone to have this antique or the other, so I recommend deflecting these requests until the emotion dies down.  I suggest keeping a notebook with requests from family members and friends that includes their descriptions of why the items are important to them.  You can go through the notebook later, when you are ready, and identify any potential problems, and enjoy the memories shared by your family and friends.

First Week after the Death of Your Spouse in Michigan:

Maintain contact with family, friends, and/or clergy to help ease and monitor your grief.
Notify Social Security of the death of your loved one. http://www.ssa.gov/ (In most cases, the funeral director will report the person’s death to Social Security but double-check to be sure yours does).
Notify your loved one’s bank.
Collect mail and sort into bills, bank/asset statements, letters, and junk mail.  The bills and bank/asset statements will help you when time comes for administering the estate or trust.
Notify the life insurance company.
Contact your attorney and financial advisor to discuss what needs to be done next.  If there is no financial advisor, begin contacting the life insurance companies, retirement account companies, pension plans, etc. to begin the process of claiming benefits.
Be careful when feeling pressure to make major life changes, such as selling your home. This may not be the best time to make this decision. Take time to consider your general comfort, familiarity with your surroundings, and the equity you have built up in the property. If you choose to sell, have your property appraised by a licensed real estate broker. http://www.realtor.com/michigan

First Six Months after the Death of Your Spouse in Michigan:

Open a Probate Estate or Begin Trust Administration
Determine the heirs or beneficiaries of the estate and what their percentages are, and give them the proper notices.  Your attorney  should help you put these together.
Tend to your physical and mental health needs; take a trip, visit family, or do something that gives you a break from the stress of losing your loved one and administering the estate.
Consider joining a support group. One such group in the Grand Rapids area is Widowed Persons Service http://www.wpsgr.org and Hackley Hospital hosts a Widows Together group (call 231-755-9141 for information).  Another group, Grief Share http://www.griefshare.org, has local chapters as well. Many local churches also offer support groups for those grieving the loss of a loved one.
If there are no probate assets, be sure to at least record your loved one’s will with the court and notify creditors of their passing.  Creditor claims can be limited to a 4 month or 1 year period if proper notice is given, otherwise the normal statute of limitations applies (often 3-6 years).
Determine what assets and debts are there.
Speak with an accountant about the expected tax liabilities and/or refunds.  Set aside funds to pay expected taxes.
Allocate funds to pay the approved debts.
Determine the amounts available for beneficiaries and/or heirs and notify them of your proposed plan of distribution.
Determine whether the estate can be closed quickly or if it needs to stay open to liquidate estate assets or handle any estate law suits or other claims.
Close the estate as soon as practical after final distributions and debt or expense payments are made.  Consider having a hearing before the judge to close the estate, as it can insulate you from claims about your duty as personal representative.
If you have a trust, before making distributions or paying debts, meet with a financial advisor and attorney about administering the trust in the most advantageous manner to avoid unnecessary taxes and other expenses.
Transfer title of vehicle to your name. Contact any Michigan Secretary of State office for more information. http://www.michigan.gov/sos.
To cancel or change a credit card account or loan to remove your loved one, contact the institution or company that issued the credit card or where the payments are made on the loan. This will prevent unauthorized borrowing of money or use of the account.
Check the Michigan Unclaimed Property website and similar websites in other states where you or your spouse lived.  Michigan’s website can be found by clicking here (or search for Michigan Unclaimed Property online) .

Months 6-9 after the Death of Your Spouse in Michigan:

Continue to reach out to friends and family members. Support groups, clergy, and therapists are all beneficial in navigating through the grief process.
Meet with an attorney and accountant for financial and estate planning for yourself in light of what you have experienced with your loved one and to ensure that all taxes and other filings are completed timely.

Planning Your Future after the Death of Your Spouse in Michigan:

Continue to take care of yourself. Make sure you are eating well, exercising, and spending time with others. Volunteering can be a wonderful way to heal. Checking with your local church can give a multitude of community volunteer opportunities. Also, www.volunteermatch.org gives a myriad of ideas on how you can help others.
Be cautious of fraud and report suspected fraud as soon as you become suspicious about it. After a death is publicized, it is not uncommon for unscrupulous people to attempt mail fraud by sending COD packages or fake invoices claiming that they were ordered by someone who has recently died. Carefully check all statements or invoices. The law is clear: you may refuse delivery of suspicious items, and payment for unauthorized packages is not required.
Surviving spouses are advised to keep their current telephone directory listing or change it to only their first initial and surname. Other changes may show that you now live alone and could result in annoying calls and unwanted solicitations or altering predators of your situation.
You may register your telephone number on the National Do Not Call registry by calling 888-382-1222 or visiting www.donotcall.gov to remove your telephone number from telemarketing lists.  You must list every telephone number, including cell phones.  You can confirm your registration here:  https://www.donotcall.gov/confirm/conf.aspx
Check mail for the next year so no assets or liabilities are overlooked.  While it may be upsetting to get much of the mail that comes in your loved one’s name, refrain from sending it back and confirm it is nothing important before throwing it away.
Make a note to check the Michigan Unclaimed Property website and similar websites in other states where you or your spouse lived.  A good time to do this is at tax time, when you are getting all of your finances together any way.  Michigan’s website can be found here (or search for Michigan Unclaimed Property online).
We at Eyestone Law Offices will help manage the legal part of your loved one’s estate and can help you navigate through this process.  Please call us or email us if you would like to know more about the services we offer.

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