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What to do when a loved one dies

In the first month following a loved one’s death, many tasks need to be completed. Handling all of the personal or legal details may fall on you. It is stressful and unless you have served as an Executor before, it can be unappreciative by family. This is an important time to get help: use family members and contact professionals. Below is a starting point to help you get through the first month after you lose a close one.

As soon as possible:

  • Send out a group text, email, or phone call to let people know their loved one has died. Make as many individual connections as possible. Try to make all the direct communication you want before posting on social media.
    • Going through the deceased’s email and phone contacts will give you a great place to start. Ask the recipients to spread the word.
    • When ready put a post on social media.
  • Find out about existing funeral and burial plans.
    • Someone will have to take charge of the situation, call a family meeting to have the first conversation.
    • If there were no instructions from the deceased, you will need to discuss what the person wanted in terms of a funeral, what the family can afford, and what the immediate family wants.
  • If the deceased was working, notify their employer.

Within the first week:

  • Decide on funeral, burial, or cremation arrangements
    • If there is not a prepaid burial plan, you’ll need to choose a funeral home and decide on specifics like where the service will be held, whether to cremate, where the body or ashes will be interred, and what type of tombstone or urn to order.
    • If the person was in the military, a first responder, or belonged to a fraternal or religious group contact the specific organization.  Some offer burial benefits or conduct funeral services.
    • The funeral home should be a great resource to you. Line up relatives and friends to be pallbearers, eulogize, and plan the service.
    • Write an obituary.
  • Secure the property
    • If the deceased lived alone, you will want to make sure their home and vehicle are secured. Any valuables should be locked up.
    • Take care of any pets.
    • Forward mail to whoever will be handling the estate duties. The goal is to make the property not look empty or abandoned. A bunch of mail or newspapers is a sign the home could be empty and empty homes attract unwanted guests.
  • Death Certificates
    • We recommend requesting at least ten copies of the death certificate. You will need death certificates to close bank and brokerage accounts, file insurance claims, and register death with government agencies.
  • Find their Estate Plan (Will and or Trust): there might be specific instructions in the document on end-of-life wishes.

Within the first month:

  • Make a list of bills and cancel services no longer needed.
    • Cellphone, cable, internet, etc.
    • Close credit cards to prevent any future charges. It is easier to stop a payment than try and get money back from some companies.
    • Terminate insurance policies (home/auto/health)
    • Delete/memorialize their social media accounts
  • Notify
    • Social Security Administration if they were receiving benefits – Social Security Administration
    • Life insurance companies – you will need death certificates and policy numbers if possible
    • Banks/Financial Institutions – find out how all the accounts are titled/owned. Find out if there are direct beneficiaries listed on each account or if they are joint accounts
    • Credit Agencies as identity theft is prevalent with the deceased
    • Cancel driver’s license – this helps prevent identity theft
    • Did they work with a financial planner or estate planning attorney? Contact them directly 
  • Make an inventory of all the assets
    • A tax return is a great resource for tracking down assets
  • Talk with a probate attorney and find out if a probate case needs to be opened. They will also instruct you when you can start distributing assets to the beneficiaries 


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