When a loved one dies, the process of getting all the paperwork and planning the funeral service can be overwhelming (especially for the person left in charge). A loved one’s death can be confusing and emotional. This can cloud people’s thinking, making funeral planning difficult.
An unexpected death can leave you unprepared to handle the logistics of managing the estate of a loved one and planning for their funeral. There are also many issues that you need to navigate during this challenging time including some critical financial matters that need your immediate attention.
We prepared a checklist to help you decide before and after the funeral.
This checklist will tell you what to do during this difficult time. It covers what to do after the death of your loved one and in the days and weeks following the death. Our checklist will guide you from making the first phone call, the funeral arrangements, and for preparing documents that you need to file and/or obtain.
STEPS TO DO WHEN A LOVED ONE DIES – Here’s a checklist to guide you on what needs to be done when a loved one dies.
WHAT TO DO IMMEDIATELY AFTER DEATH
#1 – Get legal certification of Death
As soon as possible, have the death officially pronounced by someone in authority such as a doctor, an emergency medical technician, nursing facility, hospice nurse, coroner or medical examiner. This person will fill out the forms certifying the time, cause, and place of death.
These steps will help the official death certificate to be prepared. The death certificate is necessary for many reasons, including life insurance, benefits, financial and property issues.
- If your loved one died at home under hospice care, call the hospice nurse to declare the death.
- If your loved died at home without hospice care, call 911 and show them the do-not-resuscitate document if you have it. Without this document, the paramedics will start emergency procedures, except when the body is pronounced dead. They may also take the body to the emergency room for a doctor to make the declaration.
- If you live in a rural area, where there are no emergency services, contact the local coroner’s office.
Once the death is pronounced, you can work with the funeral director to obtain the actual death certificate.
#2 – Arrange for organ donation.
This process must be done immediately at the time of death to be able to harvest the organs as soon as possible. If your loved one died in a hospital, ask a nurse to help you make arrangements. Call the nearest hospital if your loved one passed away in a nursing home or hospice.
#3 – Notify close family and friends.
Contact immediate family members. Find contacts through an email account, personal telephone books, and social media. You can give comfort and ask for help with the important decision you must make.
Notify close friends. Make a list and put as many people on it as you can. Ask them to contact other family members and friends. You can also contact a Minister, pastor, or priest.
#4 – Notify funeral home to arrange for transportation of the body.
Call the funeral home to arrange the transportation of the body. If an autopsy is not needed, the body can be picked up by a mortuary. Make the arrangements as soon as your family is ready.
If the death took place in a hospital or nursing facility, they might call the funeral home. If your loved one died at home, you need to contact the funeral home directly or ask a friend or family member to do that for you.
If your loved one preselected a funeral home or have prepaid for the funeral service, you should call that funeral home. If there is no funeral home selected, research which funeral home in your area would best serve your family’s needs. Ask a friend or relatives for a recommendation. If you have a church, ask the minister for suggestions.
Spend time researching your options when selecting a funeral home. The cost will vary from one funeral home to another depending on the kind of service they provide. Ask the funeral homes for pricing over the phone, and this will make the researching prices a lot easier.
#5 – Meet with the funeral director who will handle the funeral
Honor your loved one’s wishes by following their instructions regarding the kind of funeral they want. You can also use your family discussions to guide you on the decisions that must be made.
- Do religious traditions need to be respected?
- Which would you prefer embalming or cremation?
- Should it be a closed or open casket?
- If you choose cremation, what will be the final disposition of the body?
- Instead of flowers, will there be charity contributions?
- Where will you bury the remains?
#6 – Handle care of dependents and pets
Ask someone to look after your loved ones home and pets. Lock the house and vehicle. Make sure to park the car in a secure and legal area. Ask someone to look after the house to prevent theft. If the house is vacant, notify the landlord or property manager and the police.
Ask a relative or friend to keep an eye on the house, answer the phone, throw all perishable food out, collect mail, and water the plants. Arrange for pet care until you make the necessary arrangements.
#7 – Call the person’s employer
Call your loved one’s employer if he is working. Also, request information about company benefits including life insurance, and if there are any outstanding payments due that your loved one is entitled to.
WHAT TO DO WITHIN A FEW DAYS AFTER DEATH
#1 – Arrange for funeral and burial or cremation
Contact the funeral director and the people who will help you arrange the service. Factors to consider in arranging the funeral:
- Your loved one’s wish
- What you can afford
- What will help the family the most
#2 – Search the person’s documents
Search your loved one’s papers to find out if there was a prepaid funeral plan. Locate the will, birth certificate, Social Security information, life insurance or burial insurance policies, financial documents, and marriage and divorce certificates.
#3 – Prepare an obituary
Ask the funeral director if obituary writing is part of their service. If no, you need to write one. If you’re going to publish the obituary in the newspaper, check on their rates, deadline, and guidelines for submission. Don’t include the birthday of your loved one to prevent identity theft.
#4 – Let people know about the service
If the date and time for the funeral and burial are set, let your friends and relatives know about it. Give them the address to send flowers, sympathy cards, or donations.
#5 – Organize the funeral or wake
Organize the wake according to your tradition. The wake can be held at the funeral home, church, banquet hall or relatives’ house. Enlist the help of your relatives and friends to plan.
If your loved one was in the military contact the Veterans Administration they may have burial benefits or conduct for funeral services. Ask if you can get assistance with the funeral, burial plot or other benefits. Call Veterans Affairs at 1-800-827-1000 to inquire about veteran’s survivor benefits.
#6 – Determine if you need help or financial assistance for the funeral and burial.
You can get help from different organizations including a fraternal organization, union or church that your loved one belonged to. Send an email or call your local group for help.
WHAT TO DO UP TO 10 DAYS AFTER DEATH
#1 – Obtain death certificates
Obtain death certificates. Ask the funeral director to help you order death certificates from the vital statistics office in the state where the death occurred. Get multiple copies to complete future tasks. Each death certificate can cost around $10 or $20.
#2 – Meet with the probate attorney
Get a recommendation from family and friends to get a lawyer. Meet the probate attorney to seek legal and financial advice. If you’re the executor of the will, you and your lawyer have to take the will to the probate court for admission. Inventory of all the assets is the start of the probate process.
#3 – Notify life insurance companies
If your loved one had life insurance or burial insurance, call the life insurance agent to get claim forms. You need to contact the insurance company as soon as possible to start the claim process. Provide a death certificate with the insurance policy numbers. It could take days to weeks for you to get the life insurance payout.
#4 – Notify local Social Security office
Call your local office or Social Security at 800-772-1213. If your loved one is receiving benefits, ask them to stop payments and return the payment given for the month of death. Ask about applicable survivor benefits and the one-time payment of $255.
#5 – Notify the bank and mortgage companies
Notify the bank and the mortgage companies of your loved one’s passing. Take the death certificates to the bank and ask for assistance. If you have joint bank accounts, change the ownership. If your loved one has a safe deposit box and you don’t have the key, you will need a court order to open the safe deposit box.
#6 – Look into employment benefits
If your loved one is working, contact his employer to know about benefits such as pension plans and credit union benefits. You need to present a death certificate to make each claim.
#7 – Cancel utility companies and postal services
Ask the utility companies and postal service to stop or forward mail. Use the forward mail option to prevent accumulating mail to the address. Check the mail about creditors, subscriptions and other accounts you have to cancel.
#8 – Close credit card accounts
Contact the customer service on each credit card and ask them to close the account due to the death of your loved one. Give a copy of the death certificate to enable the company to have the account closed. Notify the estate executor if the agent refused to waive interest or fees because of outstanding debts.
#9 – Notify credit reporting agencies
Credit reporting agencies such as TransUnion, Equifax, and Experian must be given a copy of death certificate to flag your loved one’s account and avoid identity theft. After 4-6 weeks, check the account again to make sure there are no fraudulent accounts opened in your loved one’s name.
#10 – Cancel driver’s license
Submit a copy of the death certificate to the state department of motor vehicle to cancel your loved one’s driver’s license. Canceling the driver’s license will remove your loved one’s name from their records. This will prevent identity theft. Call the customer service center for instructions.
#11 – Cancel membership in organizations
Contact professional organizations, sororities, fraternities or other organizations where your loved one belongs to know how to cancel membership status.
#12 – Notify the election board
Lastly, notify the election board by presenting a copy of the death certificate.
HOW CAN WE HELP YOU?
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