The death of a loved one is an emotional and stressful event whether it is sudden or “expected.” Planning for the funeral or memorial service, notifying relatives and friends, providing for the care of dependents and pets, and even securing the home can seem like overwhelming tasks when you are just trying to deal with the shock and grief of losing your loved one. The best advice anyone can give is that you allow yourself to grieve, just take one day at a time, and enlist the help of family members and friends who will help you handle the details. However, inevitably there will be the need to see to the decedent’s final affairs following the death. Having a plan of what must be attended to will make everything work out better.
A To-Do List for After the Funeral
Within a reasonable time after the person’s death, you or another person who is taking responsibility for settling the estate should begin the process of closing your loved one’s affairs. The following is a list of some of the responsibilities that typically require attention:
- Request as many as 5 or 10 copies of the death certificate. They will be needed to claim insurance benefits, close accounts, and allow the transfer of assets in bank and other financial accounts, settle credit cards and other debts and confirm the person’s death with the Social Security Administration, Veterans Administration, or other government agencies.
- Meet with a probate attorney. Arrange to have the will filed with the probate court and the executor or administrator appointed. If your loved one had a will it will name the executor. If there is no will, a spouse or next of kin can request the probate court appoint him or her as the administrator of the estate. Prepare a detailed inventory of the decedent’s assets and property for the court. Your estate attorney can help you with this process and advise you of the next steps in settling your loved one’s estate.
- Notify the Social Security office. Call 1–800-772‑1213 or contact your local office. If your loved one was receiving benefits, payments must stop to avoid overpayment. Also, ask about eligibility for benefits for the decedent’s surviving spouse or dependents and about a one-time death benefit payment of $255.
- Notify Medicare supplement providers. If your loved one received Medicare, Social Security will inform the program of the death. However, you should contact providers to cancel any Medicare Prescription Drug Coverage (Part D), Medicare Advantage plan or Medigap policy. Phone numbers will be available on the plan membership cards.
- Contact his or her employer if the deceased was working. Ask about the pension plans, credit unions, and life insurance or union death benefits from this employer and any previous employers. You will need a death certificate for each claim. Also, stop employer-provided health insurance for the decedent.
- Notify life insurance companies to file appropriate claim forms. You will need to provide the policy numbers and a death certificate. If the deceased was listed as a beneficiary on any other life insurance policy, arrange to have the name removed.
- List any bills that should be paid promptly by the executor or administrator while the estate settlement is in process.
- Contact financial advisers regarding any accounts in the decedent’s name. In some cases, the beneficiaries of the accounts will receive immediate access to the accounts by filing the appropriate forms and providing a copy of the death certificate.
- Notify mortgage companies and banks. You will need to supply a death certificate to the bank for assistance in closing accounts or changing ownership on accounts. Check for a safe deposit box and find out how to gain access to it.
- Close credit card accounts. Call the customer service phone number on the credit card, monthly statement, or issuer’s website for each account and let them know that you wish to close the account. They will inform you of the appropriate procedure and documentation needed as well as the closing balance due if any. Provide information about account balances due to the executor of the estate for payment before the estate is finalized.
- Take steps to prevent identity theft. Providing notification of your loved one’s death will prevent fraudulent activity using his or her name and related information. Check with the following organizations and agencies to remove your loved one’s information:
- Credit reporting agencies, which will flag the decedent’s information to prevent new activity.
- Bureau of Motor Vehicles to cancel the driver’s license or state identification card.
- Email and website accounts to close social media and other online accounts.
- Election board to have the decedent’s name removed from voter registration rolls.
- Cancel memberships in sororities, fraternities, professional organizations, etc. to which the deceased belonged.
- Contact a tax preparer about filing individual and estate tax returns.
Although the process may seem complicated, you can count on your estate and probate attorney, Glenn A. Deig, Attorney at Law, to provide exceptional guidance and assistance in any and all aspects of the process of settling your loved one’s estate.