When a loved one passes away there are a number of steps that must be taken. Many of these steps involve preparing for the funeral. The funeral service and related celebrations of life are an important way to honor the person who passed away. Unfortunately, after the funeral is over there are still a number of very important tasks that must be completed.
This is a checklist created to remind you of details that need to be completed after suffering the death of a loved one. Each item may not apply to you personally, but are helpful to consider. This checklist may offer explanation or help during this difficult time.
Thank You Notes
- Complete thank you notes to acknowledge flowers, food, spiritual remembrances, memorial donations or special services.
Finalize Paper with Lawyer
- Meet with the family lawyer to begin Estate/Trust/Probate details. Give your lawyer a copy of the Will (where appropriate) and certified copies of the death certificate. Probating an estate can become a long process, and it’s best to get it started immediately.
- Codicil the will. If you have lost your spouse, it may be that you had agreed mutually to dispose of all possessions to each other if one of you were to die. Now that this has occurred, and you are about to receive these assets, you might want to designate new beneficiaries in the case of your death. Set up a meeting with your lawyer to make these adjustments.
Complete Full Notification of Death
- Complete the full notification of death. Call the deceased’s employer to learn if any death benefits may be due to the family. In many cases, death benefits will be owed from previous employers as well. Contact civic, social, religious organizations, fraternal, U.S. Post Office, voter registration and any subscriptions to remove the deceased’s name.
Clear Social Networks and Subscriptions
- Disable social networking sites like Facebook. Contact telephone, cable, utility, newspaper and magazine companies. Transfer accounts where desired and cancel others.
Take Stock and Make a Plan for the Future
- Create your unique plan for the future. Complete an advanced funeral plan for yourself with the help of your chosen funeral home director. Also, take the time to organize all your important papers, and remove those papers of the deceased that are no longer pertinent.
- Contact all relevant insurance companies. Now is the time to apply for benefits, stop or change your coverage. Ask for help from your local agent when filing your claim. Remember to send a copy of the certified death certificate with your claim. Remember, these are basic instructions and the insurance companies may have their own protocol. These insurance companies may request proof and detailed information so be prepared.
- There are many ways of settling insurance claims. It’s always a good idea to have legal counsel to smooth the process along. Also, funeral directors and insurance agents are often good sources of information. Be thorough and wrap up loose ends of any insurance possible policies. Think about life insurance, health, auto and homeowners.
Social Security and Veterans
- Identify yourself as the social security survivor. Call toll free at 1-800-772-1213.
- Veterans’ burial and survivor benefits can be reached at 1-800-827-1000. You must have service discharge papers to retrieve these benefits. If applicable, contact the railroad/miner/teacher’s retirement.
Banking and Stocks
- Get in touch with the deceased’s financial institutions to close accounts. You will need the certified copy of the death certificate. Keep in mind that the bank must inventory any safe deposit boxes with the county auditor, so you will not be able to access them right away.
- Reestablish/change your jointly held accounts and tax ID number (the social security system).
- Look into stopping direct deposit retirement benefits and social security payments of the deceased. Re-direct outstanding loans and mortgages. Check balances of all savings and checking accounts, IRA’s, CD’s, trust funds, KEOGH plans, and annuities.
- Inform your stockbroker of the loved one’s passing. Stocks and bonds may be held in a safety deposit box, or by a trust department of a stockbroker. Monthly payments the decedent receives will clarify the holder. Transfer ownership of jointly held stocks, mutual funds or bonds. Later, check into canceling or continuing any open orders.
Credit Cards and Debt
- Notify all credit card companies of the death of your loved one. It’s important not to ignore your creditors. Showing a willingness to pay or at least to discuss it goes a long way. Your credit score does not reflect poorly if your spouse dies. Take the deceased’s name off joint credit accounts. Cancel all the deceased’s credit cards.
- Organize your debt. Take stock of where and how much debt you have. Gather all bills and fully understand the credit agreements of the deceased. Choose to cancel or consolidate where you can. Many bills and loans will be covered by credit life insurance.
Department of Motor Vehicles
- Contact the department of motor vehicles. Transfer the titles of all registered vehicles, motor homes, trucks, mobile homes, trailers and boats.
- Let your accountant know of the death unless your lawyer is taking care of the final tax return. Keep a certified copy of the death certificate and an old tax return and dividend form. Keep extra copies of the death certificate to include with your returns. Your inheritance from the deceased is not taxable. The estate may owe tax. That depends on its size. Personal, federal and state tax is paid every year. IRS forms can be obtained over the Internet at www.irs.gov or call 1-800-829-3676. Taxpayer assistance is available at 1-800-829-1040.
- Transfer all real estate. Change the deed on your property, removing the deceased’s name. This can be done with a copy of the death certificate at the county seat where the property resides.
Royalties and Assets
- Manage royalties. The deceased might be receiving royalties from a product, publication or process they were a part of. These royalties may continue due to the terms stated in the original contract.
- Purchase a monument or marker and create an inscription for it. Acclimate to living alone. It’s helpful to leave an extra key with a trusted friend or neighbor. Do not hide a key by the front door.
Losing a loved one is one of the toughest things a person goes through. Hopefully this checklist has helped to ease the stress of the legal proceedings so you can focus on grieving.
Updated: January 1, 2014