What to Do When a Loved One Dies
Welcome to another day in my life. Today is Monday and I hope you had a beary safe and great weekend. It is another busy week for Dab the AIDS Bear and me.
One of the downsides of life is losing someone you love. When you live in a world where your work includes working with people living with chronic (and sometimes deadly) illnesses like HIV/AIDS and cancer; it happens more often than to the general public. But sooner or later, we all lose someone close to us.
So what do you do when someone dies? On Saturday I started blogging about a checklist that could help you cope with practical tasks during an emotional time that I will continue today. If you have not read the blogs on Saturday and Sunday, I would recommend going there before reading this one.
To Do After the Funeral
Get duplicate death certificates. You may need a dozen certified death records to complete upcoming tasks, though some will require less expensive copies. Your funeral director may help you handle this or you can order them from the vital statistics office in the state where the death occurred or from the city hall or other local records office. Each certified record will cost in the neighborhood of $10 or $20.
Send thank-you notes. From the contact list that you acquired earlier, send thank-you notes and acknowledgements. Consider delegating this task to a family member.
Notify local Social Security office. Typically the funeral director will notify Social Security of your loved one's death. If not, call 1-800-772-1213 or contact your local office. If your loved one was receiving benefits, they must stop because overpayments will require complicated repayment. Even a payment received for the month of death may need to be returned. If the deceased has a surviving spouse or dependents, ask about their eligibility for increased personal benefits and about a one-time payment of $255 to the survivor.
Handle Medicare. If your loved one received Medicare, Social Security will inform the program of the death. If the deceased had been enrolled in Medicare Prescription Drug Coverage (Part D), Medicare Advantage plan or had a Medigap policy, contact these plans at the phone numbers provided on each plan membership card to cancel the insurance.
Look into employment benefits. If the deceased was working, contact the employer for information about pension plan, credit unions and union death benefits. You will need a death certificate for each claim.
Stop health insurance. Notify the health insurance company or the deceased's employer. End coverage for the deceased, but be sure coverage for any dependents continues if needed.
Notify life insurance companies. If your loved one had life insurance, appropriate claim forms will need to be filed. You will need to provide the policy numbers and a death certificate. If the deceased was listed as a beneficiary on a policy, arrange to have the name removed.
Terminate other insurance policies. Contact the providers. That could include homeowner's, automobile and so forth. Claim forms will require a copy of the death certificate.
Meet with a probate attorney. The executor should choose the attorney. Getting recommendations from family or friends might be the best approach, but an online search can also be an efficient way to find an attorney. "The advice of counsel can save a lot of frustration and running down dead ends," Hurme says. If there is a will, the executor named in it and the attorney will have the document admitted into probate court. If there isn't a will, the probate court judge will name an administrator in place of an executor. The probate process starts with an inventory of all assets (personal property, bank accounts, house, car, brokerage account, personal property, furniture, jewelry, etc.), which will need to be filed in the probate court.
Make a list of important bills (mortgage payments). Share the list with the executor or estate administrator so that bills can be paid promptly.
Contact financial advisers, stockbrokers, etc. Determine the beneficiary listed on these accounts. Depending on the type of asset, the beneficiary may get access to the account or benefit by simply filling out appropriate forms and providing a copy of the death certificate. If that's the case, the executor wouldn't need to be involved. If there are complications, the executor could be called upon to help out.
Notify mortgage companies and banks. It helps if your loved one left a list of accounts, including online passwords, Hurme says. Otherwise, take a death certificate to the bank for assistance. Change ownership of joint bank accounts. Did the deceased have a safe deposit box? If a password or key isn't available, the executor would most likely need a court order to open and inventory the safe deposit box. Most probate courts have administrative rules about steps to access the box of any decedent.
Close credit card accounts. For each account, call the customer service phone number on the credit card, monthly statement or issuer's website. Let the agent know that you would like to close the account of a deceased relative. Upon request, submit a copy of the death certificate by fax or email. If that's not possible, send the document by registered mail with return receipt requested. Once the company receives the certificate, it will close the account as of the date of death. If an agent doesn't offer to waive interest or fees after that date, be sure to ask. Keep records of the accounts you close and notify the executor of the estate about outstanding debts.
Notify credit reporting agencies. To minimize the chance of identity theft, provide copies of the death certificate to the three major firms — Equifax, Experian and TransUnion — as soon as possible so the account is flagged. Four to six weeks later, check the deceased's credit history to ensure no fraudulent accounts have been opened.
Cancel driver's license. Clearing the driver's license record will remove the deceased's name from the records of the department of motor vehicles and help prevent identity theft. Contact the state department of motor vehicle for exact instructions. You may have to visit a customer-service center or mail documentation. Either way, you'll need a copy of the death certificate.
Cancel email and website accounts. It's a good idea to close social media and other online accounts to avoid fraud or identity theft. The procedures for each website will vary. For instance, Google Mail (Gmail) will ask you to provide a death certificate, a photocopy of your driver's license and other detailed information.
Cancel memberships in organizations. Reach out to sororities, fraternities, professional organizations, etc., the deceased belonged to and find out how to handle his/her membership status. Greek organizations may want to hold a special ceremony for your loved one.
Contact a tax preparer. A return will need to be filed for the individual, as well as for an estate return. Keep monthly bank statements on all individual and joint accounts that show the account balance on the day of death.
Notify the election board. According to a 2012 Pew Center report, almost 2 million people on voter registration rolls are dead.
Hope these blogs help you deal with the painful loss of a love one. I hope you have a beary safe and great start to your week.
Until we meet again; here's wishing you health, hope, happiness and just enough.
big bear hug,