What to do After a Loved One Passes Away
Immediately Following a Death
- Contact your hospice provider.
- Contact the funeral home.
- Contact immediate family members and close friends.
- Contact your minister.
- Contact the deceased’s employer.
- Notify person who holds power of attorney.
- Alert the executor of your loved one’s will.
- Notify religious, fraternal, and civic organizations that your loved one was a member of.
- Arrange for the care of any dependents.
- If the deceased had any pets, arrange for their immediate care.
- Remove any valuables from the deceased’s home. Secure the residence and take steps to make the home appear to be occupied (for example, use of lamp timers).
- Arrange for the disposal of any perishables left in the deceased’s home such as food, refrigerated items, garbage and medications.
- Notify the post office to forward the deceased’s mail.
Funeral Home and Service
- Ask for 10 – 15 copies of the death certificate.
- Make funeral arrangements with funeral director.
- Choose cremation, body donation, memorial service or burial service.
- Select casket, if applicable.
- Decide on viewing hours (also known as wake, calling hours, or visitation).
- Select transportation to service and burial (number and types of cars, limousines).
- Review expenses. Full expenses may include casket, flowers, clergy, payment to clergy, newspaper notices, use of church, clothing, funeral home space rental, certified death certificates, opening and closing of the grave, cemetery plot, grave marker, cremation and/or transportation.
- Provide the following information to finalize the death certificate:
- First, middle and last name of deceased, including maiden name if applicable
- Date and place of birth
- Date and place of death
- Home address
- Social security number
- Marital status
- Spouse’s first and last name
- Full names of father and mother, including mother’s maiden name
- Full names of siblings
- Full names of survivors
- Full name of previous marriage partner(s)
- Highest level of education attained
- If your loved one was a Veteran
- Entered Service Date
- Entered Service Place
- Service Number
- Separated from Service Date
- Separated from Service Place
- Grade, Rank or Rating
- Organization and Branch of Service
- Ask clergy’s choice of time for service and confirm the time with funeral director.
- Specify when family will arrive.
- Plan service including hymns and poems.
- Provide biographical information.
Within One to Two Months of a Death
- Consult with an attorney about probate and other legal matters.
- Meet with an accountant to discuss estate taxes.
- File claims with life insurance companies.
- Verify whether insurance benefits are available on existing insurance policies.
- Check for life insurance benefits available through existing credit card or loan accounts.
- File any outstanding claims for health insurance or Medicare.
- Contact the Social Security Administration.
- If your loved one was a veteran, inquire about benefits that you may be entitled to through the VA.
- Contact the deceased’s employer.
- Notify all three credit reporting agencies.
Advise all creditors in writing that a death has occurred.
- Obtain a current copy of the deceased’s credit report.
- Obtain copies of deceased’s outstanding bills and list all money owed to deceased.
- After property title changes are complete, contact the insurance company that insures the property to inform them of changes in ownership.
- Notify state and federal tax authorities.
- Notify anyone connected with family finances such as a banker, stockbroker, accountant, or financial planner.
- Advise all creditors in writing that a death has occurred.
- Change ownership of assets and lines of credit.
- If the deceased’s home is unoccupied, cancel unnecessary home services, such as newspaper delivery and cable service.
- Cancel deceased’s prescriptions.
- Notify the Registrar of Voters.
- Contact the Department of Motor Vehicles to cancel deceased’s driver’s license and transfer titles of all registered vehicles.
- Remove loved one’s name from marketing and mailing lists.
Locate cash to take care of immediate needs:
- Cash on hand on hand
- Savings accounts
- Checking accounts
- Money market accounts or funds
- Life insurance death benefits
Locate or obtain these documents for settling the estate:
- Death certificate: 10 – 15 copies, which will be used to file for social security, life insurance, etc.
- Birth certificate
- Social Security card/number for deceased
- Birth certificates of all family members to prove ages if needed for Social Security benefits
- Marriage certificate
- Military discharge papers (DD-214)
- Deed to burial property
- Copy of funeral prearrangements
- Life insurance policies
- Accidental death and health insurance policies
- Homeowner’s insurance policies
- Bank and/or credit union accounts
- Copies of bills
- Copies of payments owed to the deceased
- Real estate deeds and titles
- Stock certificates and other financial assets (bonds, mutual funds)
- Income tax returns from the last four years
- W-2 forms and other records of earnings
- Veteran’s Administration claim number
- Automobile registration
- Mortgage documents
- Automobile and other installment loan documents
- Credit card information
- Bank and retirement account statements
Contact an attorney who can help:
- Locate and probate will.
- Give advice on what to sign and what not to sign.
- Re-record deeds to real estate property.
- Transfer assets such as stocks, bonds, savings accounts, business assets, home, rental properties, etc., if not transferred by beneficiary designations, title, or trust.
- Write a will for you, or review and update your will.
- Offer estate planning advice.
File a claim using a death certificate.
Supply information including policy number(s) and amount(s), full name and address of deceased, deceased’s occupation and date last worked, date and place of birth, date, place and cause of death; claimant’s name, age, address, and social security number.
Settlement options generally are:
- Lump sum: Death benefit paid in a lump sum
- Interest only: Principal stays intact, interest paid periodically.
- Life income or annuity: Beneficiary receives a benefit amount (based on their life expectancy) on set dates for their lifetime.
- Fixed installments: Beneficiary receives a fixed amount over a period of time until the money is used up.
Contact your nearest Social Security office to apply for spouse and dependent benefits. Bring the following information:
- Certified copy of death certificate
- Deceased’s social security number
- Proof of age of deceased
- Marriage certificate
- Social security number of spouse and dependents
- Approximate earnings of deceased in year of death
- Deceased employer’s name
- Record of deceased’s earnings in year prior to death (use W- 2 forms or self-employment tax return)
- Proof of age of spouse and dependents (birth certificate, baptism certificate or grade school records if no birth certificate)
Note: Railroad retirement benefits may be available to the spouse and dependents rather than Social Security benefits, if the person was employed as a railroad employee.
For veteran’s benefits, you should contact the VA office and take along service discharge papers, serial number, branch, and dates of service. Also, take a copy of the death certificate, marriage certificate, and birth certificates of dependents.
Check to see if you and the other dependents are still eligible for hospitalization and health insurance
Contact employer and/or business associates to find out about the following.
- Group life insurance
- Pension fund contributions
- Unpaid commissions
- Accrued vacation/sick pay
- Terminal pay allowance
- Gratuity payments (tips)
- Disability income
- Service recognition awards
Department of Veteran’s Affairs
Social Security Administration
Credit Reporting Agencies
Portions of this copy are published with Permission the University of Georgia, "What to Do When Your Loved One Dies," September 2017, Prepared by Esther M. Maddux, Revised by Joan Koonce.
The information on this page does not and is not intended to constitute legal advice. Instead, all information and content are for general informational purposes only.