What To Do When Someone Dies
You're grieving a loss. But stressful, bureaucratic tasks have to be dealt with. The ton of paperwork can take survivors by surprise. Settling a deceased family member's affairs is not a one-person task. You'll need the help of others, ranging from lawyers or CPAs to advise you on financial matters to a network of friends and relatives to lean on for emotional support and who you can delegate tasks to.
You may take the lead on planning the funeral and then hand off the financial details to the executor. You may be the executor, which means you'll be settling the estate and dealing with the paperwork.
Here's a checklist of things that will need to be done:
Get a legal pronouncement of death. In a nursing home or hospital, the staff will handle this. An official declaration of death is the first step to getting a death certificate, a critical piece of paperwork. If someone has died at home, you'll need a medical professional to declare him or her dead. If this is an at-home hospice care situation, a hospice nurse can declare him or her dead.
Tell friends and family. Send out a group text or mass email or make phone calls to let people know, asking everyone to spread the word by notifying others.
- Inform co-workers, members of social groups and the house of worship the deceased belonged to.
- Notify the family member's employer.
- Post about the death on social media — if the immediate family is in agreement on this.
Find out about existing funeral and burial plans.
- Did the deceased make his or her wishes clear to immediate family or an executor? If it's not clear, a family meeting is needed to discuss what the deceased would have wanted and how that dovetails with family wishes and budget.
- If the person was in the military or belonged to a fraternal or religious group, contact the Veterans Administration or specific organization to see if burial benefits exist.
- Find out who wants to eulogize, be pallbearers, write an obituary or arrange a post-funeral gathering.
Secure the property if no one is living there anymore. Lock the home and any vehicles. Remove valuables like jewelry or cash to a safe place. Arrange for someone to collect the mail or have it forwarded.
Get 10 copies of the death certificate.
- Find the will and the executor.
- Meet with a trusts and estates attorney.
- Contact a CPA.
Contact the following companies and agencies. You will need a death certificate and policy numbers:
- The Social Security Administration, to stop checks if the deceased was receiving benefits.
- Life insurance companies.
- Credit card companies, to cancel the accounts.
This is just the beginning! Consider it a guide to planning for your own future and encouraging your loved ones to do the same. The more you do in advance, the easier it is for your heirs and executors to deal with all of the above. Let us know how we can help you and your family plan.
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