What to do When a Family Member Dies
Losing a family member can be a devastating and difficult experience that we are rarely prepared to deal with. As if handling the emotional difficulty isn’t hard enough, there are a variety of important financial tasks and decisions that must be made by you or the estate’s executor. With so much responsibility in such a difficult time many tasks and decisions are often forgot about. Below are some items to consider when you lose a family member.
Right away (initial tasks)
- Arrange for the funeral, burial, cremation and memorial service. Remember the decadent may have made arrangements ahead of time. Check their will or estate planning documents such as a living trust for a letter of instruction.
- Get your certified copy of the death certificate (usually provided within 24 hours of death). Have the funeral home file the certificate with the state and keep certified copies for future use.
- Locate documents such as: a living will, trust documents, deeds, titles, certificates. You may need military discharge papers to apply for future benefits as well.
- Report the death to Social Security office. Make sure to check for possible survivor benefits and return any funds received from the Social Security office for the month of death and after.
- Make a list of decadent’s assets.
- Contact the decadent’s workplace so you can collect any salary pay owed and collect belongings. Survivor benefits may be available for spouses or children.
- Contact IRA custodians and employers regarding pension plans. Make sure to review post-death distribution options and beneficiary designations.
- Locate insurance policies and contact any applicable insurance companies.
- Cancel all credit cards unless you’re named on the card and want to retain it.
- Retitle jointly held assets.
Other intermediate tasks (before 9 months)
- Notify the decadent’s creditors by mail and by placing a notice in the newspaper.
- File the will with the appropriate probate court, contact the probate court for instructions or contact an attorney for assistance.
- File applicable federal and state estate tax returns by their deadline (normally 9 months after death).
There are other tasks and items you may have to address and consider, such as changing and updating your beneficiary designations and updating your estate plan. With the emotional hardship of losing a family member it is easy to forget the most ordinary tasks you may need to perform, such as notifying their workplace or former organizations. This makes it easy to forget some of the basic financial and legal tasks. The list above doesn’t cover everything you will need to do, consider or evaluate, but it can help serve as an aid to you through a difficult process.