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What to Do When You Lose a Loved One

Published: January 2019

A death in the family can be incredibly painful — it’s normal to feel at a loss and not know 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 necessary plans during this time of grief. Here are some things you may need to do after a family member passes away:

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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 religious or military groups they may have frequented, says Consumer Reports.

You’ll also 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 information you need to discuss with the employer, adds Consumer Reports. That may include 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, says Consumer Reports. These contacts should be able to explain what actions you may need to take regarding any 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 payments or other bills, 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

Take some time to gather essential financial and legal documents. According to Consumer Reports, these may include copies of the death certificate (which you typically obtain from a funeral home), will, life insurance policies and birth or marriage certificates. You’ll likely need to provide government agencies or financial institutions with some of these documents, or need them to help execute your loved one’s last wishes

Plan Funeral and Memorial Services

If you haven’t discussed arrangements beforehand, Consumer Reports suggests researching whether there’s a prepaid burial plan or directives in place for a funeral, memorial or other services (such as an organ donation). If no arrangements were made, the FTC says you may want 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 usually have the option to set up services separately.

Close or Revise Accounts

Start working on other household and financial matters after funeral arrangements are made. You should reach out to utility companies and other home service providers to change or stop services. If your loved one was receiving a pension or Social Security benefits, it’s a good idea to notify the appropriate parties to stop payments, notes Consumer Reports.

Lastly, don’t forget to contact your loved one’s financial institutions (such as banks or credit card companies) to update contact information or close accounts. You should also report your loss to creditors to help prevent identity theft after your loved one’s death, says Experian. Taking these proactive steps may make it challenging for identity thieves to open fraudulent accounts with their information — otherwise known as credit ghosting. It’s also a good idea to check their credit report in the months following their passing to make sure there isn’t any suspicious activity.

It’s true that you can never be fully prepared for the death of a loved one. Hopefully, this list will help you manage the decisions and responsibilities that follow their passing — giving you a little more time to grieve and focus on the wonderful life your family member lived.

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