It is never easy to address a family member’s or loved one’s death. Death often comes when nobody expects it, making it difficult to understand what tasks need to be done and when. The funeral must be planned, bank accounts closed, pets rehomed, and final bills paid.
The amount of paperwork may take you by surprise. It’s a big responsibility and requires massive attention to detail. Settling all affairs for the deceased is not a one-person task either. You will need help from other people,, such as friends or family members, to professionals like lawyers or CPAs, who will advise on financial matters.
You may take the lead in planning the funeral and delegate the financial details to the executor. Or you may be the executor, which means you’ll oversee settling the estate and spend months, maybe even years, dealing with paperwork.
Immediately After Someone Dies – Get a legal pronouncement of death
Immediately after someone passes away, there are several things that you will need to do. The first is to get a legal pronouncement of death.
The staff would do the paperwork if your loved one died in a hospital or nursing home where a doctor was present. If your relative died at home, especially if unexpected, you’d need to get a medical professional to declare them dead. To do this, call 911 and have them transported to an emergency room where they can be declared dead. Without a declaration of death, you can’t plan a funeral, much less handle the deceased’s legal affairs.
Inform Friends and Family
In the digital age that we are in today, notifying family and friends is not the task it used to be. One way to spread the news could be sending a mass text or email to the deceased’s contact list. A post on social media such as Facebook will work just as well in informing everyone about the occurrence. Ask recipients of the mass text or email, as well as the viewers of the social media post, to spread the word about the loved ones passing.
“Ideally, you had the opportunity to talk with your loved one about his or her wishes for funeral or burial,” writes Sally Balch Hurme, an elder law attorney and author of Checklist for Family Survivors.
If you didn’t, she advises you to look for a letter of instruction in the deceased’s papers or call a family meeting to have the first conversation about what the funeral will look like.
You will need to discuss what the person wanted regarding a funeral, what you can afford, and what the family wants. This is critical if there are no instructions.
Within a Few Days of Death – Make the Arrangements
Search the paperwork to find out if there was a prepaid burial plan. If not, you’ll need to choose a funeral home and decide on specifics like where the service will be, whether to cremate, where the body or ashes will be interred and what type of tombstone or urn to order.
If your loved one was a veteran or a fraternal or religious group member, contact the organization to see what benefits they offer. Get a friend or relative to write an obituary.
Secure the Property
Lock up the deceased’s home and vehicle. Ask a friend or relative to water the plants, get the mail and dispose of the food in the refrigerator. If there are valuables, such as jewelry or cash, in the home, lock them up.
Go to the post office and put in a forwarding order to send the mail to yourself or whoever is working with you to see immediate affairs.
You don’t want mail piling up at the deceased’s home, telegraphing the world that the property is empty. This is also the first step in determining what subscriptions, creditors, and other accounts need to be canceled or paid.
As you can see, many items will need to be taken care of when a loved one passes. Be sure to get assistance from friends and family members, so you do not become overwhelmed.