Generally, the first step is to prepare a list of all assets, such as your home, savings accounts, checking accounts, brokerage accounts, retirement accounts and life insurance.
Next you need to determine what liabilities your deceased spouse had at the time of death. These may include both his/her liabilities as well as yours in cases where both of you are signers of mortgages, auto loans and other loans.
Prepare a list of all relatives of the deceased spouse with addresses and ages if they are minors. This includes: children, brothers, sisters and parents.
The next step is to contact an attorney, who is familiar with the probate process. When meeting with an attorney, this may be a good time to also discuss changes in your Will and/or Trust.
It is important that you contact your bank and credit card companies to change joint loans, accounts and credit cards to your name only. At this time, it is also important to make changes in beneficiary designations on your retirement accounts, life insurance, beneficiaries and annuities.
If you are presently collecting Social Security, you will need to apply for survivorship benefits through the Social Security Administration.
Most important is that you contact an attorney to assist you in the Probate process and future planning to avoid a multitude of pitfalls.