The first item to be addressed after the death of a loved one is often the funeral or memorial service. This is something that is generally handled by the next of kin. Receipts for expenses should be kept as they can be paid out of the decedent's estate. The funeral director is usually the party that will supply the death certificates. Make sure you get several certificates from the funeral director as they will be needed as the probate process goes forward. After, or perhaps simultaneously with the funeral planning, you will want to locate the decedent's will if there is one.
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The will identifies who the executor of the estate will be. This person will be responsible for carrying out all the rest of the decedent's wishes as expressed in the will. The executor should identify who the beneficiaries are and make sure they have up to date contact information for them. For this task, it can prove useful to know prior to the funeral so as to get the contact information when the family gathers for that ceremony. The executor would take the original will, death certificate, photo ID, and necessary filing fees to the Register of Wills to open the estate. The Register of Wills has a flow chart of all the required steps to administer the estate. It is advised to retain an attorney for this process. Attorney fees can also be paid out of the estate.