It’s no secret that the process of coping with the death of a loved one and subsequently being handed the responsibility of “closing out” their life can be a lot to handle at once. Arrangements and accommodations have to be made. People have to be contacted and many decisions have to be made. It will make your life a lot easier if you outline exactly what it is you might have to do for someone close to you who has passed on — a death checklist, of sorts. So, here’s what you can expect to do should someone’s death affect you or your family.
What Now: Your Immediate Obligations
Following the person’s passing, there are certain tasks in the post-death process that are extremely time-sensitive and should be treated as such. First, you should find out if the person wanted his/her organs to be donated. You can check on the individual’s driver’s license or an advance health directive such as a will. There’s no cost associated with it, but the organs have to be harvested very quickly to be suitable. The same goes for bequeathal; if the person asked for his/her body to be donated to a medical school or facility, it’ll have to be arranged quickly.
If those aren’t primary concerns, you should still contact immediate family as soon as you can. That can be an opportunity to comfort one another, and to discuss details of the funeral. For example, someone close to the deceased may know something about his/her last wishes that you don’t, so you can act accordingly. You can start the process of planning together, going over your loved one’s wishes, the budget, and what the family needs.
Depending on how much the person prepared in advance, you may also be obligated to choose a funeral home. If the deceased didn’t delineate one, do some research on others’ personal experiences with certain funeral homes before choosing one. Make sure to secure any property such as home or vehicle, and notify the post office of his/her passing so they can forward mail to you and notify you of any subscriptions or other accounts that may need to be cancelled.
What’s Next: Pre-Funeral Obligations
Once you’ve handled the more time-sensitive aspects of the funeral, it’s time to actually start planning the service. First, you should reach out to a funeral director to discuss details of the service, such as date and time for the service, the time of disposal and what that will require. For example, if your loved one asked specifically for a traditional burial, you’ll need to start making plans for a casket, embalming, and more. If your loved was a veteran, you may need to inquire about special privileges offered to deceased veterans or servicepeople. These can range from providing assistance to help cover funeral costs all the way to providing fully-financed and planned arrangements.
Next, call the designated cemetery to arrange the burial site and for information regarding a headstone. Once the service and burial plans have been arranged, contact family and friends to ensure they have the appropriate information to pay respects to your loved one’s life.
Remember to keep a record of “well-wishers” or anyone in particular who offers special condolences, donations, flowers, thoughts, or anything else noteworthy so you can acknowledge them at a later time. You might also want to write an obituary yourself instead of having the funeral home take care of it — if so, be sure to check rates in local newspapers and other submission guidelines.
What’s After: Post-Funeral Obligations
After the funeral service has taken place, you’ll still have a few things to handle before the post-death process is complete. You’ll need to order at least a couple of copies of the death certificate so you can have them on-hand for closing accounts. Contact your local social security office and the representative will assist you with what is required. If your loved one was receiving Social Security benefits, you’ll need to contact them discontinue benefits as soon as possible or else face a fairly complicated repayment system. Also call medicare/medicaid and employment benefits. Conversely, if the deceased has a surviving spouse and/or dependents, they may be eligible for personal benefit.
If your loved one had a life insurance plan, then you’ll need to file a claim, which requires the death certificate. You’ll need to cancel any health insurance, car insurance, or other insurance plans he/she may have had in place. In the same vein, close out all of their finances at once, making sure to get an accurate measure of all of their assets, properties and such so that they can be disbursed either according to their will or otherwise.
Notify the mortgage company, credit reporting agencies and banks of the deceased. Close out their credit card accounts and cancel their memberships and subscriptions. You should also close out email addresses, social media accounts, and anything similar to minimize the threat of identity theft. Contact the election board to ensure that they know your loved one is deceased. Finally, contact a tax preparer to file a claim for their returns and estate returns for the year.
Again, going through the motions of funeral plans is anything but easy. But having a good idea of what needs to be done, and in what order, will certainly make the burden more bearable, and hopefully allow you and your family the peace of mind you deserve following the loss of a loved one.