The loss of a loved one can be devastating, particularly if it was sudden or unexpected. Spouses, parents, children and other relatives can be unsure of what to do, and many people don’t know how they should handle complex issues like the person’s estate.

These situations are undoubtedly painful and confusing. However, loved ones can take steps to begin the process of addressing a person’s affairs. While it won’t be easy to get started, it will be necessary to carry out the wishes of a loved one.

  1. Talk to other family members. Discuss any statements your loved one might have made about funeral wishes or a will. This information will ultimately require confirmation, but it could give you an idea of where to start in terms of planning for the next step. 
  2. As this Kiplinger article notes, you might also want to secure the person’s property, if necessary. This can require court orders and notifying a person’s property owner, if there is one, so that approved parties can access a home or business and prevent unauthorized entry. You might also consider forwarding his or her mail.
  3. Focus on the basics. This includes finding a will and identifying an executor to handle the administration of an estate. You don’t have to do these things alone, either. You can hire professionals to help you with all of this, from understanding the obligations of an executor to inventorying the person’s property. 

After the death of a loved one, there is a lot of confusion and uncertainty to deal with. It can also seem impossible to do anything when struggling with overwhelming grief and loss. However, start with talking to family, protecting the person’s home and figuring out the basics. Resolving the more complicated issues may come later during probate, but you can think about that when and if the need arises.

You can also discuss any concerns, questions or hesitations you might have with an estate planning attorney. He or she can provide helpful guidance regarding the legal issues so that you can stay focused on coping with the loss and being with your loved ones.