When a loved one dies, it feels like so much needs to be done immediately. As an attorney, I have families call me within hours of a loved one dying wanting to know when they have to tell the court, creditors and even Facebook their loved one has died. While there are notifications that must be made and legal actions to take, my advice is generally always the same to families: “Right now, you need to care for your loved one and your family. Everything else can wait until you have laid your loved one to rest.” When a loved one dies, there are things that must be done immediately and there are things that can be done later. Here’s a list of the things to do immediately and those that can be done after you have laid your loved on to rest.
Immediately upon death
1. Contact the funeral home with which your loved one has made arrangements prior to death. If your loved one has not made arrangements, contact a funeral home that you and your family prefer to use. The funeral home will transport your loved one’s body to their facilities.
2. Contact immediate family and close relatives
3. Make necessary burial/cremation and memorial service arrangements. If your loved one made the arrangements before his/her death, the funeral home will help you fulfill those arrangements.
4. If your loved one did not pre-pay for his/her arrangements, consider the cost and who will be paying for the arrangements.
5. If your loved one is a veteran, inquire about veteran burial, memorial benefits. You can call Veterans Affairs at (800) 827-1000 or visit www.va.gov for list of federal veteran’s benefits.
6. Notify friends and remaining family of death and pending funeral arrangements.
7. Write obituary for the local paper and include funeral service times and information.
8. Secure your loved one’s home and personal property such a vehicles, tools and equipment.
9. Arrange for a headstone.
After the funeral
10. DO NOT PAY your loved one’s bills until you have spoken to a lawyer about the estate’s obligations and the law regarding what bills may be the responsibility of the surviving spouse or family.
11. Order certified copies of the death certificate. On average, families will need 6.
12. If the funeral home has not already done so, notify Social Security Administration.
13. Make an appointment with a lawyer to discuss probate issues, creditors, estate debts, and disposition of personal and real property.
14. Stop any health insurance and other insurances that are not needed to protect property.
15. Cancel all credit and debit cards.
16. Notify the United States Post Office of your loved one’s death.
17. Collect your loved one’s important papers such as their Will, Trust agreement, life insurance policies, bank statements, and mail.
18. Make a list of your loved one’s creditors including any mortgage holders, banks or credit unions, credit cards, health care providers, judgment lien-holders, any ex-spouses, children owed child support, or any other entity that sends a bill in the name of your loved one.
19. Notify the banks and financial institutions where your loved one had accounts.
20. Notify all credit reporting agencies.
21. Cancel his/her driver’s license
22. Cancel your loved one’s membership in any organizations.
23. Contact your loved one’s accountant for final tax preparation.
24. Follow you attorney’s instructions regarding winding up your loved one’s affairs and any probate or trust issues.