What notices are required when a person dies?

Dear Mr. Premack: When a person dies, what is the order of informing others of the death, and who does the informing? – LJ

According to Texas law there are official legal notices, and there are informal family notices. The informal notices can be handled any way that family dynamics (functional or dysfunctional) allow. Some families draw closer when a loved one dies, and some fracture.

The official legal notices depend on the type of planning that was done in advance by the decedent. As far as the heirs are concerned, if there is a probate then they are notified twice. First, when the Will is filed with the court a public notice of the pending hearing is posted at the courthouse. Second, after the Will is admitted to probate the Executor must send them a copy of the Will and of the order which admitted the Will to probate.

If the preplanning included a living trust (and there is no need for probate) then the beneficiaries will be notified when 1) the trustee deems it appropriate within the scope of the trustee’s fiduciary duty to the beneficiary or 2) when the trust document instructs that they be notified. Living trusts do not impose the same rigid notification requirements as probate of a Will.

Other notifications happen as needed. There is not a specific order which must be followed. They might include: 1) The funeral home almost always contacts the Social Security Administration to stop the monthly check.: 2) The life insurance company is notified when the policy beneficiary files a claim for death benefits. 3) The pension administrator is notified by the Executor or the designated beneficiary. 4) The tax-assessor is notified by the Executor or by the new owner if the homestead is transferred to an heir or is sold.

Paul Premack is a Certified Elder Law Attorney practicing estate planning and probate law in San Antonio.

Original Publication: San Antonio Express News, June 24, 2011

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