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My 83 year old step-mom died unexpectedly during an emergency surgery, her poor heart failed.


What should I do now now? Does anyone have a checklist of things to take care of after someone dies? She lived alone and I was taking care of her long-distance with local home-help. I have just flown into Arizona to try to figure things out. I am POA but I understand that ends with death.

Thank you all so much, this is all really helpful! I had been helping my step-mom over the past few years with home and assisted care as she became less able to live independently. So at least I know about 95% of her finances. I did find her will, and it lists my birth mom as the primary beneficiary, me as secondary.

My step-mom’s will explicitly states that it gives permission for “unsupervised probate of my estate” and the power to sell her property “without confirmation by any court.”

I assume that this means that I (acting as representative of beneficiary) can act without a lawyer? Does the bank need a copy of the will as well as the death certificate? (Yes I will call them.) I am on her AZ bank account but not her older MI credit union. Will the bank freeze her account when I call? I am concerned that all of her bills (phone, utilities, etc) are on auto-pay and that everything will get cut off.
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Reply to Libbby
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JoAnn29 Apr 29, 2021
You need to check with probate concerning the wording of the Will. You may not need to Probate but u or Birth Mom will have to become an Administrator or sign an affidavit. Being a beneficiary gives u no rights. When u become Administrator or sign an affidavit u will get a short certificate giving you the ability to handle step-moms bills and creditors. Yes, with the short certificate you may need to send out death certificates.
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The funeral home will contact Social Security concerning her death so her checks will stop. SS works like a paycheck, you are paid after the effect. So if she died in April, the check she received in April is really payment for March. So she is entitled to that. She will not be entitled to the one she receives in May because that is Aprils payment and she died in April.

No matter how things get handled, remember that you are not responsible for any money owed, her estate is. If no money then creditors don't get paid.
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If she has no will then file for probate and offer to be executor. For probate, you will need to take an accounting of all her assets including if there are beneficiaries, joint accounts, life insurance, car and home. For stocks and paper assets, try to get the value on the exact day of death. ( Think of this as forensic research). If she owns property, you cannot sell it until someone is designated executor. Even if she has a will you need probate authorization papers. That can take up to a couple of months. You also need the death certificate to file probate if it is delayed. Ask the funeral director for at least 5 copies of the certificate.
Notify any pensions to stop checks. Can this be done from afar. Yes it can with legal help. However, someone has to take time to search for records as the home gets emptied.
My suggestions are just a small bit.
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Reply to MACinCT
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Does she have a Will? If so then the Executor should handle things. If no Will or Executor, I think you will may be allowed to handle her funeral. Is there an insurance policy? Does she have enough in her accounts, were you on these accts? Probate can't be started till something like 10 days. If no Will then you may be able to become the Administrator of her estate. You will get a short certificate allowing you to handle her finances, creditors, etc.
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Reply to onlychild22
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See a Trust and Estate Lawyer who deals with end of life; not all do.
I would like to recommend the short simple book called "Please Don't Die! But if You Do, What Do I Do Next by Kurt J. Grube and Keith S. Grube, ESQ. with John Nevola. On Amazon.
The POA does indeed end with Death. There either is a will or not, and it either appoints you as Executor or not. If there is no will in the home then you will need to have the Trust and Estate Attorney help you to be appointed by the court to act as the Executor if there is no one else to take this on.
Wishing you good luck and so sorry for this loss.
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Reply to AlvaDeer
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I am so sorry for your loss.

May God grant you grieving mercies and strength during this difficult time.

Does she have any blood family? They will be considered legal next of kin. If not you can sign an affidavit that you are taking responsibility for her estate and depending on what she had, you won't even have to file probate.

Go to the State of Arizona attorney general website, it has great resources to help you navigate this difficult time. You can find the affidavit or ask the crematorium or funeral home, they have these resources available because they have to protect themselves from family drama.
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Reply to Isthisrealyreal
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JoAnn29 Apr 26, 2021
In my state an affidavit is only used if the estate is less than 20k. If no Will then a person can become an Administrator. But in the end, the Estate goes to the relatives. First children, no children then siblings, no siblings then parents.
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First I am sorry for your loss. Do you have your step moms final wishes, as far as did she want to be buried or cremated? The funeral home will contact social security, but you need to call them as well, to let them know she died. Write her obituary, contact family and friends, If she had a will, contact the lawyer, and open probate. Contact any retirement funds she may have had, as they will have on record any beneficiaries of said funds. Also contact her bank, and anywhere else she may have had her monies.
There's a lot to do at first, but please make sure that you're taking time to grieve her as well.
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