When someone close to you dies, it can be incredibly difficult. Dealing with your emotions and grief are just part of the difficult process. If you are responsible for taking care of the personal affairs and funeral arrangements, the experience can be overwhelming. When a loved one passes away, there are things that need to be taken care of by the family. Often families find themselves at a loss of what to do upon a death. We have included the following steps to take in hopes that it makes the difficult time a little less challenging.
Get a Legal Pronouncement of Death and Make Arrangements for the Body
Once your loved one has been declared dead by a medical professional, you will want to contact the county coroner to ensure you get a proper death certificate. You will also want to contact your loved one’s doctor. Then, contact your funeral home to make arrangements for the body to be picked up. You may also want to arrange for organ donation, if applicable.
Contact the Family
The next thing you’ll want to do after is contact the family. This often the most difficult step. Call family members and friends to notify them of the passing. Don’t feel obligated to contact everyone yourself. Ask other family members to spread the news for you.
Handle Care of Dependents and Pets
If your loved one had dependents they were still caring for, you will need to make arrangements to be sure that they are taken care of. Contact other close family members for support. If they had pets, take the pets home with you or find a suitable pet sitter or permanent home for them.
Contact the Deceased’s Employer
If your loved one was working, you will need to notify his or her employer of the death. Request information about benefits and any pay they are owed. Ask if your loved one had a life-insurance policy through the company.
Arrange the Funeral and Burial
After you have had a day or so to process the death, you will need to begin thinking about funeral arrangements for your family member. Hopefully this is something that you had discussed with the person prior to death. If not, you will need to make the decisions that you think your loved one would make.
You will need to decide if your loved one will be buried or cremated. Then you will select a casket or urn. Then select the funeral time and place. You will also choose funeral participants like family members or friends to do readings, sing, give eulogies or be pallbearers. Discuss with the funeral home about ordering a headstone.
Also, search for any end-of-life plans or documents or prepaid burial plans the person may have had. The funeral home will have different packages available to fit the budget of the estate.
If the person was a veteran or part of a local organization, they might qualify for burial services. Contact those organizations to see what options are available.
You will need to order flowers and printed materials such as funeral programs. You may also need to plan a funeral reception where you will select a location and coordinate food and drinks.
Prepare an Obituary
It’s common to write an obituary after the death of a loved one. Share a brief background of the person’s life and legacy. Obituaries can be published online, on social media, in newspapers and the funeral home’s website.
Be Considerate of the Deceased’s Belongings
You will want to keep an eye on the person’s home for the first few days after death. Check their mail and phone, water their plants and throw out food. Make sure their home and vehicles are locked up and properly secured. It will take time to figure out this part of their estate but try to keep up with the small tasks, so they don’t become a problem. You can also ask other family members to help with this, as well.
Obtain the Death Certificate
Collect the death certificate (usually from the funeral home) and be sure to get multiple copies. You will need them the finalize estate affairs for financial institutions, government agencies and insurers.
Start the Probate Process and Contact the Social Security Office
If the estate is relatively small and isn’t likely to be disputed by family members, you may be able to handle in on your own. But if it’s a larger estate with no estate plan, you might be better to hire an estate attorney for help.
You need to call the Social Security Office at 1-800-772-1213 and notify them of the death.
Alert Banks and Payment Services
Your loved one most likely had bank accounts and other services. You will need to contact these organizations to notify them of the death. If they don’t have a beneficiary for the accounts, you will need to complete paperwork to access the funds. You will also need to discontinue any services that are no longer needed.
Contact a tax accountant. You will need to file a return for the estate.
Make a list of bills that are due such as mortgage, car payments and utilities and set up a plan to make sure these bills are paid on time.
Notify Insurance Companies
Fill out the claim forms for a life insurance policies your loved ones had. And cancel insurance policies such as health insurance, car insurance, homeowner’s insurance or anything else. If the deceased was on Medicare, the Social Security Office should notify them of the death.
Close credit card accounts by emailing or mailing them a copy of the death certificate. Then notify credit reporting agencies like Experian, Equifax and TransUnion to minimize the chances of identity theft.
Just because you’ve have handled the legal steps, doesn’t mean the grief is over. For some, this is when the grief gets worse. Make sure you take care of yourself and address your own needs during this time. Make the time to connect with family members and ask for help when you need it. No one should go through this alone.
It is normal to struggle with sadness and even guilt after losing someone close to you. Talk to a grief counselor or therapist if the grief is overwhelming and you find yourself unable to cope.
These steps should make it a little easier for you to know what to do when a loved one passes away. Save this checklist somewhere safe and accessible just in case.