Steps to take when someone dies in Oklahoma

The list below provides many of the steps you should consider taking after a friend or loved one dies in Oklahoma. 

This list is not intended to cover EVERY step but only many significant action items.  For more specific guidance, you can hire me to help you work through the administration of your friend or loved one’s estate.

Below are items to consider in administering the estate of someone who has passed away.  These items are not ordered by their importance.

  1. Death certificates.  You will need several copies of certified death certificates, so when you have a chance, please contact the funeral home which should be able to provide these to you.
  1. Mail. Start the process of collecting the decedent’s mail daily and storing it in a secure place. You also need to determine if the decedent used email and if so, whether you can access the email account.  
  1. Estate planning documents.  Determine whether the decedent had a trust or a will, or both. Locate the original copies of any of those documents. 
  1. Determine who the executor is. The executor or sometimes known as the personal representative will be the person that carries out the administration of the decedent’s estate. This will be the person named in the last will and testament made by the decedent or a trustee if the decedent has a trust.  If the decedent left no last will and testament and no trust, the executor would likely be the person closest to the decedent in the family 
  1. Deliver the Will.  If the decedent left only a last will and testament, that document must be delivered to either the personal representative or the District Court in the county where the decedent lived at the time of death within 30 days. 
  1. Government Benefits.      Contact any government agency (such as the Social Security Administration or Medicare) from which the Decedent was receiving benefits and inform them of the death and ask what the next steps to take are. 
  1. Expenses. It is important from the very start that you keep a list of any money expended in the administration process. If you spend money out of your own pocket, you want to have documentation so that you can get reimbursed down the road by the estate. If you are spending money that comes out of the estate, first, you want to be careful that you were doing it properly, and second, you will want to have written documentation. 
  1. Documents. Collect and secure other relevant documents:
  • Copies of the death certificate
  • Insurance policies
  • Investment account Statements such as IRAs, 401(k)s, mutual funds, pensions
  • The last checking and savings account statements 
  • The last mortgage statement
  • Last two years’ tax returns
  • Marriage and birth certificates
  • An up-to-date credit report of the decedent.
  1. Safe deposit box. Determine whether the decedent had a safe deposit box by contacting any banks where the decedent had accounts. If you determine that the decedent indeed did have a safe deposit box, you will need to figure out how you’re going to access the box.
  1. Creditors. Make a list of all the creditors of the decedent that you know of. The list should include the name of the creditor, the creditor’s address and telephone number, and the amount owed to the creditor. This list will be easier to compile if you have gathered the documents listed in the step above. 
  1. Make an inventory. This is a list that includes all the Decedent’s assets for things such as bank accounts, stocks and bonds, life insurance policies, retirement accounts, real estate, large household goods, business interest, and other items. 
  1. Consult with an attorney. Even if you don’t end up hiring the attorney, you need to sit down with the attorney and discuss what steps will be necessary to administer the estate following the death of the decedent. Talking with an attorney early in the process gives both you and the attorney the best chance to take advantage of any opportunities that may exist or to deal with any other issues. Your attorney can help you develop a specific set of action steps tailored to your situation so that you can move through the process of administering the estate as quickly and as painlessly as possible. Your attorney can also help you determine if a probate proceeding will be necessary.
  1. Contact your CPA. You should contact your accountant as soon as you have a chance to let him know what is happened and get whatever guidance you can from him on issues to be thinking about. I do not believe there are any tax returns due immediately, but there will be several returns that need to be filed.  In addition to filing tax returns, your accountant should be able to provide you with guidance on any tax elections that need to be made because of the Decedent’s death or other tax advice. 
  2. Death benefits.  Apply for benefits due to survivors. This would include insurance policies, financial contracts, credit card agreements, mortgages, retirement accounts, or any other type of account where there may be something payable on death.
  3. Social media accounts. Be cautious about what information you post on social media regarding the death of the decedent. It will be tempting to go to certain sites and right tributes or create memorials about the person. However, keep in mind that all the information you provide on these sites will be available at least to a group of people and making it more likely that the information would fall into the wrong hands, such as people that might want to steal from the decedent.
  4. Credit Reporting Agencies.  To reduce the risk of identity theft, it is important to notify the three major credit reporting agencies that the account holder has passed away.  The contact information for each of the major credit reporting agencies can be found at these links: Equifax; Experian; and Transunion.