The death of a loved one creates many challenges. Of course, there is grief and a profound sense of loss and immediate plans must be made for a memorial service or funeral.
But there are many other matters that need to be addressed. From closing bank accounts and credit cards to paying bills, settling an estate and attending to a host of legal issues, the amount of paperwork alone can be overwhelming. It is a task that requires support from professionals, such as lawyers and tax advisors, as well as friends and family.
When you are faced with the loss of a loved one, it can be helpful to make a list and prioritize what needs to be done as you prepare to manage the job ahead.
1. First, you will need a legal declaration of death, which precedes a death certificate. If your loved one died in a hospital, a nursing home, or under the care of hospice nurses at home, officials will take care of this. However, if he or she died at home without hospice care, you’ll need to call 911 to have the person taken to an emergency room where they will be declared dead and moved to a funeral home.
2. You’ll want to advise family, friends, co-workers and others whom you believe would want to be informed of your loved one’s passing. It can help to send an email or post news of the death on social media so you don’t need to handle multiple calls, texts and other communication.
3. If you and your loved one had not discussed their wishes for what they wanted after their death, you may be able to find a letter or some other instructions for a funeral or other service. In the absence of that, it may be a good idea to call the family together to discuss the best way to honor your loved one – and what is amenable and affordable to everyone.
4. Once these matters are settled, you’ll need to choose a funeral home, decide whether to cremate or bury, and where the body or ashes will be interred. Don’t be afraid to check funeral prices, as they can vary quite a bit. Your funeral provider will notify the Social Security Administration of your loved one’s passing. The SSA will notify Medicare.
5. If your loved one was a member of the military or belonged to other organizations, check on benefits that might be available. Veterans’ organizations are available to help.
6. With so much going on, don’t forget to secure the deceased person’s home and car. Stop the mail (or have it picked up), ask a neighbor or relative to water plants, and have someone clean out the refrigerator. If there’s jewelry, cash or other valuables in the house, remove them or lock them up.
7. Remember to arrange for care for your loved one’s pet(s).
As time passes, other, more business-oriented matters will need to be resolved, including Social Security adjustments for a surviving spouse, banking, life insurance policies, credit card accounts, Veteran’s death benefits, and more. You will need to obtain several copies of your loved one’s death certificate, as the VA, financial institutions, and life insurance companies will require them. Be sure to ask each institution if they require the long format (including cause of death) or the short format. Your funeral provider can order extra copies for you.
Seek out the help of professionals to discuss your family member’s will, trusts and other estate matters, as well as their execution. Meet with a trusts and estates attorney, a certified public accountant and a financial advisor, if needed.
We are here to help and advise you through this difficult time and ensure your family’s assets are fully and legally protected.