When a Loved One Dies

First Steps

  1. Obtain death certificates with a raised seal from the funeral director (or vital statistics.)  For more information, see How to Obtain a Death Certificate.  
  2. Search thoroughly for an original  Will.  Look through the home or safe deposit box of the decedent, ask family members, or inquire with the decedent's attorney.  If a will is found, give the original will to the person named as Executor.  
  3. You will be required to provide the names and full addresses of the decedent's closest next of kin, regardless of inheritance, estrangement, etc.  
  4. Gather asset information.  If there is no will, you will be required to provide asset information and their values.  
  5. If the decedent was a veteran, you may wish to check on veteran's benefits at 1-800-827-1000.
  6. The Estate must be handled in Surrogate's Court of the county where the decedent resided at the time of death.  This is the county that should be listed on the death certificate.  


  1. The Executor should complete a Probate Information Sheet and email or fax it to the Surrogate's Court with a copy of the will and death certificate.  (The information sheet requires names and full addresses of the decedent's next of kin.) 
  2. The Executor should make an appointment to probate the will.  The original signed will and an original death certificate must be provided at the appointment.  These items will be retained by the Surrogate's Court.  
  3. The Executor should be prepared to pay probate fees at their appointment, via cash, check, or Visa, Mastercard, or Discover.  (We cannot accept a check with the decedent's name on it unless it is a joint spousal account.)
  4. If an executor has died, you must provide a copy of their death certificate.  If an executor is physically/mentally unable to fulfill their duties, you must provide a letter from a physician stating so.  If an executor does not wish to apply, they must sign a renunciation form before the Surrogate's Court or a notary.  
  5. If there are no living/willing executors named in the will , please call the Surrogate's Court to review your options.  
  6. Ten (10) full days must pass, including the tenth day, after the death for the Surrogate's Court to issue probate certificates.  However, an executor may apply in the interim.  
  7. The Surrogate's Court will issue Executor Certificates (Letters Testamentary) which the executor will use to obtain access to the decedent's estate assets.   
  8. The Executor will then distribute the assets pursuant to the terms of the Will.  
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