When a loved one passes, it is often difficult to know what steps to take and in what order. Already filled with grief, an individual does not need to make the process any more painful than it already is. There are a few immediate needs and other responsibilities that should occur within the first couple of weeks. It is most important that family members have these tough conversations while they’re alive in order to ensure that wishes are met.
- Get a pronouncement of death. If the individual is in a healthcare facility like a hospital or nursing home, this will happen naturally. If the deceased passes at home, call their doctor or hospice caretaker. If the death was unexpected, call 911 and paramedics will take over. It’s essential to know if the individual has a DNR (do not resuscitate) in place. If they do, you can call their primary physician instead.
- Next, call a mortuary or crematorium to transport the body if no autopsy is needed. By law, prices to do so (along with other services provided) must be provided over the phone (ftc.gov, pg. 17).
- Notify family and friends, the employer of the deceased and arrange care of any dependents, including pets. When speaking with their employer, you may request information about benefits, life insurance or pay owed at this time. Secure the individual’s home if they lived alone (lock up, temperature control, food, etc.)
- Make funeral arrangements which include a service and burial/cremation. Be sure to go over the individual’s wishes if they had these stated. Rely on these businesses to help you through the process.
Within the first two weeks
- Safeguard their assets and locate all relevant documents (including requested death certificate). Know the location of their will, birth certificate, marriage and divorce certificates, Social Security information, life-insurance policies, financial documents, and keys to safe deposit box or home safe. Digital assets may be considered as well such as email, social networks, and files.
- Contact a probate attorney to assist with the legal procedures. It’s important to rely on assistance from professionals including your trusted attorney, their accountant or tax preparer, their investment advisor, personal banker, mortgage lender and life insurance agent.
- Reach out to The Social Security Administration (800-772-1213; ssa.gov) and other agencies from which the deceased received benefits, such as Veterans Affairs (800-827-1000; va.gov), to stop payments and ask about applicable survivor benefits. Reach out to any agency providing pension to the deceased. Utility companies and the postal office should be contacted to stop or forward payment in addition to any other subscription services. The IRS, credit card companies and even the DMV should be notified in order to prevent identity theft.
- Social media companies like Facebook, LinkedIn or Instagram can remove or memorialize the deceased person’s account as well. Other digital accounts like email may be closed.
When a loved one passes, they leave a full life that must be handled with care and consideration. It is stressful to be the responsible party, particularly when you are grieving a loss. There is a lot of paperwork, and the process can be overwhelming. It’s important to know that you’re not alone. Professionals in all of these areas exist to help. Please call or email us at 866-566-9494 or Assistant@jlonglaw.com if you have any questions regarding this process.