WHAT TO DO WHEN YOUR LOVED ONE DIES
Updated: Sep 23, 2021
1) Locate all estate assets, including the Will. Look through tax returns, mail, email, bank accounts, deeds, filing cabinets, home office, and safety deposit boxes.
2) Contact your attorney, or hire an attorney, to discuss probating your loved one's estate.
3) Contact your CPA, or hire a CPA, to discuss filing a final tax return and, if necessary, an estate tax return.
4) Make an inventory of all assets. Assets include personal property, bank accounts, real property, vehicles, brokerage account, personal property, furniture, jewelry, etc.
5) Make a list of bills, both large and small. These may include mortgage(s), taxes, utilities, streaming services, cable, internet, insurance, vehicle notes, etc. If an executor has been appointed to the estate, you will want to provide this list to them so they can make sure all bills are taken care of while the estate is settled.
6) Cancel any services that are no longer needed (i.e., life insurance, medical insurance, iTunes, Amazon Kindle, etc.).
7) Notify the following of your loved one's death:
a. Social Security Administration: If the deceased was receiving social security benefits, you will need to stop the checks. Funeral directors usually report a death to the Social Security Administration, but it is the survivors’ responsibility to make sure the SSA has been notified. You can locate your local SSA office at this link: https://secure.ssa.gov/ICON/main.jsp. SSA will notify Medicaid/Medicare that your loved one has died.
i. Note: You may be eligible for death benefits from social security. When you contact your local office, you will want to discuss eligibility and how to apply for death benefits.
b. Life insurance companies: You will need a death certificate and the policy number to make a claim on any policy the deceased had. If you are unsure what policies your loved one possessed, you can use the National Association of Insurance Commissioners Policy Locator Service at https://eapps.naic.org/life-policy-locator/#/welcome to assist you in locating any policies that exist.
c. Banks and financial institutions: If you have a list of accounts and online log-in information, you likely can cancel or change the accounts online. If you do not, you will need to contact the bank and provide them a copy of the death certificate to close or change any accounts.
d. Financial advisers and stockbrokers: Review the account documents to determine the beneficiary listed on each account. Depending on the type of asset, the beneficiary may be able to access the account or benefit by filling out the appropriate forms and providing a copy of the death certificate. However, in many cases, letters testamentary or letters of administration will be necessary to access the account.
e. Credit agencies: Send copies of the death certificate to the three major firms: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. This will help prevent identity theft.
f. Landlord: If your loved one rented a residence, you will want to notify the landlord to terminate the lease and arrange to remove their belongings from the premises. However, remember that you cannot sell or dispose of assets of the estate until the estate has been probated.
g. Department of Motor Vehicles: To cancel your loved one’s driver’s license and help prevent identity theft, contact your local DMV for specific instructions. You likely will need to provide a copy of the death certificate to the DMV.
h. Credit card companies: Contact customer service and request the representative close the decedent’s account. You likely will need to provide a copy of the death certificate to the credit card company. Make sure to keep a record of the accounts you close, and inform the executor, if someone other than yourself, of any outstanding balances on the credit cards.
i. Terminate insurance policies: Contact the insurance provider of any home, vehicle, disability, and health insurance policies to terminate coverage and request the return of any unused premiums be returned. If there are any unused premiums, make sure to give them to the executor to deposit into the estate account.
j. Delete or memorialize social media accounts: You can delete accounts with Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, TikTok, etc., though some individuals choose to turn them into a memorial for their loved one instead where people can continue to post in their memory. You will need to provide the company with a copy of your ID as well as a death certificate.
k. Close email accounts: To help prevent identity theft, it is wise to shut down the deceased’s email account. If you do not have the log-in information, you will likely need a copy of the death certificate to cancel the account.
i. Note: If you anticipate a Will contest, or are having trouble locating estate information and assets, you should refrain from closing the email account until all evidence has been located and saved from the account.
l. Medical professionals: In the event, there were any appointments scheduled for your loved one, you will want to make sure to cancel them.
m. Veterans Affairs: If your loved one was a veteran, notify the VA to ask about possible death and burial benefits, and also apply for any survivor’s benefits that you may be eligible to receive.