What to Do When You Lose a Loved One
A death in the family can be incredibly painful — and it’s normal to feel at a loss, not knowing what to do when someone dies. But, having a checklist of immediate tasks to take on in the days and weeks after the passing of a loved one may help you get through the necessary planning during this time of grief. Here are some important things you may need to do after a family member passes away:
Notify Family and Friends
Start by notifying people who knew your loved one, including friends, extended family and neighbors. You should also reach out to your loved one’s doctor, and any other religious or military groups they frequented, says Consumer Reports. Lastly, you’ll want to get in touch with their employer, if they had one, so they can share the sad news with the team. There may also be some additional items you need to discuss with the employer, says CBS News, such as 401(k) or other retirement plan distributions, vacation plan payouts or any employer-provided insurance policies.
Contact Their Insurance Agent and Attorney
Next, connect with your loved one’s insurance agent, lawyer and any other important advisers, such as an accountant or military representative, says Consumer Reports. Along with an employer, these contacts should be able to explain what actions you may need to take in regards to any relevant benefits that were in place (such as life insurance or funeral benefits). They may also help you determine if there is a will or living trust — these are documents that outline how your loved one’s money or property should be distributed. If there are outstanding medical or other bills, you may want to make sure you also understand how those should be handled. Generally, any debts owed will be paid for by your loved one’s estate, according to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
Obtain Important Documents
You’ll also want to start gathering essential financial and legal documents. Important papers to compile, according to Consumer Reports, may include a death certificate (multiple copies, which you typically obtain from a funeral home), copies of a will, life insurance policies and birth or marriage certificates. Locating keys to a home safe or to a safe deposit box may help with these tasks, says Consumer Reports.
Plan Funeral and Memorial Services
If you haven’t discussed arrangements beforehand, Consumer Reports suggests sorting through files to see if there’s a prepaid burial plan in place or whether there are directives for a funeral, memorial or for services such as an organ donation. If no arrangements were made, the FTC says it may be important to compare funeral and burial costs from at least two providers before making any decisions. Keep in mind that while most funeral homes offer “packages,” you have the option to set up services separately.
Close or Revise Accounts
After you’ve made funeral arrangements and talked to your loved one’s advisers, start working on other important household and financial matters. Ask a close friend to help you collect any mail and keep an eye on the person’s home, if it’ll be vacant, says Consumer Reports. You’ll also want to reach out to any utility companies and other home service providers to change or stop service, and call any financial companies (such as banks and credit card companies) to either update contact information or close accounts. Additionally, if your loved one was receiving a pension or Social Security benefits, you will want to notify the appropriate party to stop payments, adds Consumer Reports.
It’s true that you can never be truly prepared for the death of a loved one, but having a list of important steps may help you manage the decisions and responsibilities that follow their passing — allowing you to focus on the wonderful life your family member lived and time to grieve with loved ones.
This is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended as legal or financial advice.