When you lose a spouse, partner, or parent, the grief can be overwhelming. During that grief, life goes on. There are arrangements to be made, things to be taken care of, and much more to do. In recognition of this reality, here is a checklist that you may find useful at such a time.
Gather Legacy and Estate Documents
First, be sure to collect any form of documentation you may need to make sure affairs are in order. Ask for help from other family members if you need it. Start by gathering a will, a trust, or other estate documents. If none of these exist, you could face a longer legal process when settling the person’s estate.
Account for Social Security
Make sure to gather their Social Security card or number. Generally, the person’s Social Security number will be retired shortly following the death. If you are uncertain, consider checking with the Social Security office.
Seek Other Documentation
Then, gather any account statements, deeds/titles to real estate, car titles or lease agreements, storage space keys/account records, any bills due or records of credit card statements, any social media platform information, if applicable.
Look for a computer file or printout with digital account passwords. Prior to their loved one’s passing, some family members may try to centralize all this information or state where it can be found.
Sometimes, the person leaves a letter of instructions. A letter of instructions is not a legal document; it’s a letter that provides additional and personal information regarding an estate. It can be addressed to whomever you choose, but typically, letters of instructions are directed to the executor, family members, or beneficiaries.
Take Care of Immediate Needs
Next, take care of some immediate needs. One, contact a funeral home to arrange a viewing, cremation, or burial, in accordance with the wishes of the deceased.
Call or email the county clerk or recorder to request 10 to 12 death certificates; a funeral home director can often help you with this matter. (Counties usually charge a small fee for each copy issued.) Ten to 12 copies
may seem excessive, but you may need that many while working with insurance companies and various financial institutions.
Also, if the person was still working, contact the human resources officer at your loved one’s workplace to inform them what has happened. The HR officer might need you to fill out some paperwork pertaining to retirement plans, health benefits, and compensation for unused vacation time.
Remember, this article is only scratching the surface of what you’ll need to do when a family member passes away. This article is also for informational purposes only and is not a replacement for real-life advice, so make sure to consult your financial, tax, legal, and accounting professionals before modifying any strategy.
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