Here are some of the initial things to focus on after the death of a loved one:
- Contact the funeral home – if no funeral home was chosen prior to their death ask the professionals you are in contact with (i.e.: hospital or nursing home staff, emergency medical technicians, police).
- Order copies of the death certificate – the funeral home will assist with ordering copies of the death certificate. I suggest initially ordering 10-15 certified copies, as you will need these for insurance claims, car title transfers, bank notification, selling property, etc.
- Contact insurance companies about what they need from you to file claims – many times an estate attorney or funeral home can assist you with filling out these forms. If you are the financial POA (power of attorney) you may have to send them those forms. This includes pre-planned funeral insurance.
- Contact an attorney – if they had an estate plan/trust created contact the attorney who created the document. If not, find an attorney who understands estate planning and probate. (The funeral home may be able to refer you to someone they’ve worked with).
- Notify the bank – If you have access to their accounts I suggest transferring whatever money you can into any joint account you have with the decedent. Once the bank is notified, funds in non-joint accounts will be put on hold and you will not have access to the money until the estate is settled. (Note: the funeral home contacts social security regarding the death, once they know the bank is notified so doing this sooner rather than later is suggested). The bank then monitors the accounts to keep them secure from un-authorized transactions and identity theft.
- Close all credit cards – this can be done by writing a letter regarding the passing, as well as a copy of the death certificate (in most cases a Xerox copy of the death certificate will suffice).
- Keep important documents such as wills, deeds, automobile titles and insurance information together in one place. Creating file folders assists in keeping things orderly. Store the documents in a safe or secure area of your home until you need to access them.
- Make copies of any forms you fill out or sign, as well as receipts from any items purchased related to the death.
- Secure keys to any real estate – if they lived alone I recommend purchasing a timer to turn lights on at night giving the impression that the property is occupied.
- Secure personal property including but not limited to family heirlooms, computers and jewelry.
Losing someone we love is overwhelming, add to that coordinating funeral arrangement, locating important paperwork and managing the dissolution of their estate can seem insurmountable. However; focusing on key areas can help to make it a little more manageable.