To-do checklist after loved one dies

While the loss of a loved one may be emotionally devastating, the tasks to accomplish after one dies could be overwhelming. As a result, we have compiled a checklist of some of the important things to consider in a somewhat chronological order as follows:

  1. Get a pronouncement of death: This may not be a problem if one dies in a hospital or care facility or if your doctor will handle. However, sometimes if one dies in their residence, someone may have to call 911 to transport the deceased to the hospital so there can be a declaration of death. Some people have an Out-of-Hospital Do Not Resuscitate Order (which is different than a living will or directive to physicians) so paramedics will not attempt to resuscitate the deceased.
  2. Disposition of remains: After death, arrangements should be made to transport the body to the funeral home, crematorium, mortuary, etc. Also, if there is a potential dispute between loved ones, the deceased could have signed a document entitled “Disposition of Bodily Remains” giving specific instructions (i.e., cremation) and the order of who is in charge of the body.
  3. Contact minister, priest, rabbi or other ritual leader or director: Arrangement of timing of funeral service in conjunction with funeral plans (see 5 below).
  4. Notify friends and family: Those closest to the deceased should be notified in a personal manner (in person or by phone). Others could be notified by a blast e-mail or by Facebook or other forms of social media. Someone close to the deceased might look at the contact list on the phone or computer of the deceased as well – so it is important for someone to know passwords or where the passwords could be located.
  5. Determine if there are existing funeral plans or arrange funeral plans: Some already have pre-need funeral contracts (besides owning burial spaces) which take care of virtually all funeral plans. Some veterans or surviving spouses of veterans get assistance (marker and space) from the Veterans Administration. Others may simply have written burial or funeral plans or instructions as to their desires after death including post funeral gatherings. Pallbearers should be chosen. Determination should be made as to whom should deliver eulogies. Someone should be put in charge of making a list for those who gave flowers, contributions, food, etc. so that thank you notes could be sent. Someone (or a group) should be in charge of writing an obituary for the deceased. Due to increased costs of newspaper obituaries, some may consider publication online only.
  • Gather information needed for funeral home for death certificate: 
  • Full name of deceased including maiden name (if applicable);
  • Date of birth of deceased (birth certificate) including place of birth;
  • Date of death;
  • Gender;
  • Marital status;
  • Surviving spouse (if applicable) name;
  • County and location of death;
  • Residence address and county of residence at time of death;
  • Occupation of deceased;
  • Cause of death;
  • Full name of parents of deceased;
  • Order death certificates: This is normally handled by funeral homes. However, if a funeral home is not involved, then the information in the preceding paragraph will be needed.
  • Secure residence: If deceased lived alone, not only is there increased risk of burglary if a residence has no one living there, but sometimes heirs or potential beneficiaries may take personal property items (or items mysteriously vanish). Furthermore, if an obituary is published, don’t identify the address of the residence since burglars may see this as prime opportunity for theft. Police or other security might be notified for additional protection.
  • Arrange for care of dependents and pets: Sometimes others (child, someone disabled or elderly needing assistance) were dependent on the assistance of the deceased resulting in arrangements being needed for their care. Also, arrangements should be made for the care of pets of the deceased. Sometimes mention is made in Wills or Trusts on the care of pets. Some even have pet trusts giving explicit details of care ranging from grooming to how many times a pet (such as a dog) is walked and how much is paid to the caregiver.
  • Notify communal organizations: If the deceased (or even an immediate family member of the deceased) was active in a communal organization (i.e., church or charitable organization), then such communal organization should be notified. The communal organization will likely notify others involved in that organization of the death by blast email or through social media.
  • Notify employer or former employer: Sometimes paychecks, commissions, or bonuses are due to the deceased. In addition, sometimes the employer has group life insurance, health insurance, vision or dental insurance and there should be cessation of premium payments. A claim may be needed against one or more of such policies. Such policies should also be terminated. If the deceased is retired and is survived by a spouse, then the deceased’s pension payments often cease or are reduced.
  • Cancel subscriptions and forward mail: This could be part of the process of securing the residence mentioned above. If newspapers start to accumulate in front of the residence, the residence could be a target for burglars. Mail (USPS should be notified) should also be forwarded to reduce risk of checks or personal information being stolen.
  • Dispose of food, refrigerated items, etc.: If there is no one else living at the residence, then consider giving to someone else or disposing of it.
  • Locate other legal documentation, etc.:
  • Trusts and/or original Will;
  • Advance Directives (medical power of attorney, directive to physicians);
  • HIPAA Authorization (access to medical records due to privacy laws);
  • Disposition of Bodily Remains (see 2 above);
  • Organ donation card;
  • Driver’s license;
  • Social Security card or number;
  • Pre- or post-nuptial agreements;
  • Marriage certificate (especially if no Will or Trust);
  • Birth certificates of all possible heirs if no Will or Trust;
  • Passport or proof of citizenship.
  • Military discharge papers (DD-214) for dates of service, service number if deceased was veteran and veteran burial benefits.
  • Locate all financial accounts:
  • Checking, savings, money market, Cds;
  • Retirement accounts (IRAs, 401ks, 403bs, etc.);
  • Investment accounts including stocks and bonds;
  • Annuities;
  • Credit cards;
  • Cryptocurrency (bitcoins, etc.).
  • Locate all insurance policies:
  • Life insurance (including VA life insurance and group insurance through employer);
  • Accidental death insurance;
  • Cancer insurance;
  • Mortgage insurance;
  • Credit card insurance;
  • Health insurance (including Medicare, Medicare supplement, dental, vision, long-term care insurance or hybrid life insurance/long-term care insurance policy);
  • Pre-need funeral insurance or burial policy;
  • Car insurance;
  • Workmen’s compensation insurance.
  • Locate username and password information for:
  • Computer access;
  • Cell phones;
  • Email accounts;
  • Social media accounts;
  • Financial accounts.
  • Locate titles, loans, leases, mineral rights, debts and deeds:
  • Vehicle titles (car, boats, mobile homes, etc.) as you will need to change ownership;
  • Notes (either loans made by the deceased or payable to the deceased);
  • Deeds to any property owned by deceased including mineral and royalty deeds, timber rights, as well as warranty deeds, transfer on death deeds, life estate deeds, etc.;
  • Leases including rental properties, business properties (either rented by or to the deceased), oil and gas, timber, etc.;
  • Membership certificates (club, etc.);
  • List any other debts (credit cards, etc.);
  • Contact Estate, Elder Law or Probate attorney as guidance may be needed for:
  • Probate (if there is a Will and there is need to transfer property and pay creditors);
  • Administration assistance;
  • Notification of government entity providing public benefits;
  • Determination of heirship (if no Will or Trust);
  • Potential contesting of estate planning documents.
  • Probate Will or determine heirship and appoint personal representative: If assets need to be transferred if there is no trust or beneficiary designation, Letters of Testamentary or Administration or a Small Estates Affidavit and Order may be needed to transfer property or pay bills.
  • Cancel services and credit cards not needed: Cell phone, internet, cable, iTunes, Netflix, etc. It should be noted that if the deceased was married and only deceased was named on the service, the surviving spouse may have problems. For example, if deceased spouse’s name was only one on phone bill, the surviving spouse may have to get new phone number.
  • Notify major credit reporting agencies and get copy of credit report. Credit reporting contact information will be provided on our website (dallaselderlawyer.com).
  • Notify Social Security: Usually funeral homes notify Social Security of the deceased if they are handling funeral, etc. Widower or widows should be sure to collect a one-time $235 payment after the death of their spouse. If deceased received payment electronically and an extra payment was received, Social Security will electronically withdraw from that account the amount paid in error.
  • Notify Veterans Administration: If deceased was receiving disability income from VA which should cease, had life insurance policy through VA or is seeking burial benefits from VA, then VA should be notified. If surviving spouse needs care, he or she could possibly receive benefits from VA.
  • Notify Texas Health and Human Services Commission: If deceased was receiving certain Medicaid benefits (such as long-term care and drug costs), the state should be notified of the Medicaid recipient’s death. Elder law attorneys can often assist with avoidance of successful claims from Medicaid Estate Recovery (the state often has a right to make a claim against a homestead or car and other exempt resources of the deceased).
  • After any collections or benefits due, terminate insurance policies of the deceased.
  • Cancel driver’s license, utilities to the residence (if deceased was single), voter registration, etc. and notify Department of Motor Vehicles.
  • Delete or memorialize social media accounts (i.e., delete Facebook account or memorialize the account). Estate planning documents should mention authority to handle social media accounts and other digital assets of deceased.
  • Close email accounts to prevent fraud.
  • If an estate is established or trust becomes irrevocable, get a tax ID Number for the estate or trust.
  • Make tax elections. Sometimes tax elections are made to the IRS for beneficial tax treatment. Attorney or accountant can give guidance if applicable on elections, as well as use of disclaimers, handling of retirement accounts, etc.
  • Valuation of Assets, Real Estate, etc. Determination of valuation of assets of deceased (such as stocks and real estate) should be made as of the date of death. 
  • Cancel prescriptions of deceased. If Medicare D is received and it is withdrawn from Social Security, then it will be cancelled when Social Security is cancelled.
  • Register deceased on Do Not Contact list.
  • File final tax returns (individually or for estate or possibly a trust).
  • Distribution of assets to beneficiaries, heirs.

If interested in learning more about this article or other estate planning, Medicaid and public benefits planning, probate, etc., attend one of our free upcoming virtual Estate Planning Essentials workshops by clicking here or calling 214-720-0102.  We make it simple to attend and it is without obligation.

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