Many times, when a loved one passes away, the family is so upset and they do not know what to do next. I have listed the basic steps to take when a loved one passes away.
- Look for paperwork that might indicate whether the decedent had pre-paid any funeral arrangements or had any specific burial wishes, and if you cannot find any, the family should discuss what they think the decedent might have wanted. Sometimes, the Last Will and Testament will have a statement about what the decedent wanted for their funeral arrangements. Sometimes, they will write it out or even pre-pay for their services.
- If the decedent is receiving Social Security or pensions, notify the correct agency so that the monthly payments will stop. It is also important to know that, Social Security benefits are paid one month in arrears meaning that benefits for January are not paid until the beginning of the next month, and the recipient must be alive for the entire month in order to keep the benefits. Thus, if a recipient dies on January 31st, their February payment must be returned to Social Security pursuant to Social Security rules that require a recipient to be alive for the entire month in order to collect the payment in the following month.
- If the decedent was employed, notify their employer. The employer should also be able to tell you if the decedent had any retirement accounts with the employer (if you are the beneficiary), and whether there are any other benefits the employer has for the family.
- Ask the funeral home to provide you with 5 to 10 copies of the death certificate (some with the cause of death and some without the cause of death). The death certificate is the proof that you must give to life insurance companies, financial institutions, and the court, among other entities, in order to prove the person died. Some companies, like life insurance companies, may want a death certificate with the cause of death on it. Others, such as the clerk of court, will need a death certificate without cause of death (for privacy concerns) in order to open an estate.
- You will need to determine whether the decedent had any assets that were solely in their name (and if so, talk to a Probate attorney about opening up a probate) – for more on probate, click here. You will also want to determine who the creditors are – who did the decedent owe money to (credit card bills, medical bills, utilities, mortgages, etc.)?
If you have any legal questions relating to estate planning, please call the Law Offices of Laurie E. Ohall, P.A. to set up a free 15 minute phone consultation. Contact me today if you need estate planning, elder law, probate or guardianship assistance.