Broker Check


August 26, 2021

Most people aren’t sure what to do after someone dies and the funeral takes place. With so many questions and a myriad of details to take care of, it’s easy to get overwhelmed at such an emotional time. As you review what's in store, try to delegate anything you realistically can to trusted family members and close friends.

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AARP offers good advice on What to Do When a Loved One Dies for both before and after the funeral. "This burden shouldn't be placed on one individual," says Sally Hurme, an AARP elder law attorney and author of The ABA Checklist for Family Heirs. "When people ask what they can do to help, take advantage of the offer. Delegate."

It helps if your loved one left a list of accounts, insurance, investments, memberships, subscriptions, real estate and online passwords. You’ll need to locate all the essential information about their assets and liabilities to notify the providers, protect property, save money, and prevent identity theft.

Take the guesswork out of locating your important documents and passwords.

You can use the Family Inventory Workbook to:

  • Help loved ones find what they need if you’re sick, injured, or die
  • Organize your financial picture
  • Begin or revise your estate plan
  • Make it easier to update your beneficiary information

Get Your Family Inventory Workbook Instantly

“Families who have gone through our life and legacy planning often struggle less with the details and experience fewer surprises because they generally share more information with family and extended family during the planning process. Part of our conversation is ‘Show your family how much you love them. Don’t leave a mess,’ which can happen when someone dies without a will, an executor isn’t appointed, beneficiaries are out of date, and their family can’t locate documents.” says Greg Hammond, CFP®, CPA.

“As a financial advisor and family wealth management firm, no matter how much or how little planning you’re comfortable with, we always recommend you tell a trusted friend or family member what you did and where you keep your documents.” adds Scott Iles, Wealth Advisor. A Consumer Reports list of ‘what to do when a loved one dies’ illustrates the importance of knowing someone’s wishes to keep a sad event from becoming more painful.

To protect your family’s finances and well-being here's a checklist of things to do after you get beyond your loved one’s funeral.

  1. Consult a trust or estate attorney
    If the deceased had a will, the executor named and the listed attorney admits the document into probate court. If there is no will, the probate court judge names an administrator in place of an executor.
  2. Consult an accountant You’ll need to file a return for the individual, and an estate return. You will eventually have to send in federal and state income tax returns and possibly estate tax returns. Typically, this is due within nine months of the death. State estate tax rules vary.
  3. Order death certificates
    Your funeral director may assist you with this or direct you to the correct local records office so you can order them yourself. Many times the funeral director will talk to you about this when planning the funeral. You’ll need multiple certified death records so you can complete many of the items on the list.
  4. Notify Social Security
    The funeral director usually notifies Social Security of your loved one's death. If not, you can call (800) 772-1213 or contact your local office. If you don’t notify Social Security and checks get cashed after the date of death, you are criminally liable for repayment with penalties and interest.
  5. Make a list of bills, utilities and online recurring charges
    It’s important to make a list of all the bills and their due dates so you know what the deceased owes, what to keep and what to cancel. This is especially important to ensure power, water, heat or cooling stays on while you’re sorting out the details.
  6. Notify the post office
    To ensure bills get paid on time, you can forward mail to the executor’s address. Mail can be a treasure trove of information on things you may not have thought of —from magazine subscriptions, catalogs, creditors and other accounts that need to be canceled to revealing assets the family may not know exist.
  7. Notify the mortgage company or landlord, and secure the property
    You will need a death certificate for the mortgage company. If the home is vacant you should lock it and notify the police so they can check periodically. A surviving spouse or child may receive a special lump-sum death payment by meeting certain requirements. You can find out more at
  8. Notify Medicare
    If your loved one received Medicare the Social Security office informs the program of their death. However, if the deceased had a Medicare Advantage plan, Medicare Prescription Drug Coverage (Part D) or a Medigap policy, you’ll need to cancel the insurance using the phone number on the plan’s membership documents.
  9. Notify life insurance companies
    If your loved one held life insurance, you’ll need to file the appropriate claim forms.
  10. Discontinue health insurance
    Notify the health insurance company or the deceased's employer. Be sure dependent coverage continues if needed.
  11. Notify other insurance policies
    Contact the insurance providers listed on the policy documents.
  12. Contact the deceased’s employer
    If the deceased worked, contact their employer to get information about benefits, wages due, pension plan, retirement accounts, and credit unions.

Make it Easier for Your Loved Ones

The Family Inventory Workbook is a handy reference guide for all your important documents. It’s helpful for locating them and recording passwords. Best of all it’s completely free.

Download Your Workbook Now

  1. Contact financial advisors, stockbrokers
    Depending on the type of asset, the beneficiary may gain access to the account or benefit by simply filling out appropriate forms and providing a copy of the death certificate. Your financial advisor or accountant can guide you through this. Your financial advisor can make sure your investments are secure and help you take immediate action if needed.
  2. Close credit card accounts and stop recurring monthly charges
    Call customer service listed on the credit card, statement or website. Be sure to keep records of the accounts you close and outstanding debts to pay. It’s important to check for recurring monthly charges for memberships to online sites for movies, gaming, itunes, books, etc. If charges occur after the date of death you can seek credit to the deceased’s account.
  3. Contact government agencies
    In 5 things to do immediately after a loved one dies, USA Today states “If the deceased served in the armed forces, there may be Veteran's Administration survivor benefits payable to the spouse and/or the children of the deceased veteran. While some benefits require that the death occur while on active duty, others just require service. Since these benefits are fairly complicated, you should contact the VA to determine if you qualify."
  4. Contact the bank
    Keep monthly bank statements on all individual and joint accounts as a record of the account balance on the day of death. Open a bank account for the deceased’s estate in order to pay bills. Change ownership of joint bank accounts. If the deceased had a safe deposit box and a password or key isn't available, you may need a court order to open it.
  5. Notify credit reporting agencies
    To minimize the chance of identity theft, immediately provide copies of the death certificate to Equifax, Experian and TransUnion and have the account flagged. You should also check the deceased's credit history periodically for fraudulent accounts.
  6. Notify the motor vehicle department
    Prevent identity theft by calling the nearest Motor Vehicle Department and removing the deceased's name from the department of motor vehicles records and canceling their license to prevent identity theft.
  7. Cancel email and online accounts
    It's a good idea to close social media and other online accounts to avoid identity theft. The procedures for each website vary but most require a death certificate and other detailed information.
  8. Cancel memberships and voter registration
    Contact the deceased’s professional organizations sororities, fraternities, and clubs and notify the Registrar of Voters.

Amid the questions and details of what to do after someone dies, don’t forget to acknowledge peoples kindness and contributions. No one escapes grief’s grasp. If you find yourself overwhelmed or too sad to take care of the things that need to be done, talk to your health care provider, house of worship, or community for a referral to a counselor or support group to help you adjust to loss in a healthy way and guide you through the various stages of sorrow.

Make it Easier for Your Loved Ones

The Family Inventory Workbook is a handy reference guide for all your important documents. It’s helpful for locating them and recording passwords. Best of all it’s completely free.

Download Your Workbook Now