What to Do After the Loss of a Loved One
The stress and the sorrow that come with the loss of a loved one are inexplicable. Having to figure out what to do with the finances of the departed may seem like an added burden on a grieving family.
There are a variety of things that follow your loved one’s death, and getting things in order (sooner rather than later) will help avoid delays and confusion that may occur if they’re neglected.
To make this process easier for you, here is a checklist of the top documentation and money matters you’ll need to deal with. This life insurance checklist includes critical information and is designed to save you money, time and energy. If you follow the steps, it will help you get through the weeks immediately following the death of a loved one a little more easily.
Step 1: Obtain certified copies of the death certificate
- Your family doctor or medical examiner, within 24 hours of the death, will sign, state the cause of death and provide you with the death certificate.
- The remainder of the form is completed by the mortuary handling the final affairs and filed with the state registrar.
- A certified copy of the death certificate will be needed every time you apply for benefits or when you are required to provide proof of the death.
- We recommend that you get 10 to 15 certified copies; you may need them in the future. Photocopies are usually not accepted.
Step 2: Obtain certified copies of the marriage certificate
- If you are the spouse of the departed, you will need proof of marriage before you can inherit from the estate, existing policies, or investments, or while applying for Social Security benefits.
- Death and marriage certificates are kept by the state where the death or marriage occurred.
- Visit www.cdc.gov/nchs for state-by-state information on requesting certified copies of death and marriage certificates.
Step 3: Get in touch with a legal advisor
Settling an estate can be complicated. When your loved one departs, you should consider seeking legal advice on matters such as:
- Re-recording of property deeds
- Disposition of stocks, bonds, investments, savings and checking accounts, and other assets
- Disbursement of the estate belonging to the deceased
- Disbursement of the business and estate assets
- Drawing up of a will for the widow or widower
Step 4: Visit a trust officer and tax attorney
A local trust officer is an important resource for the deceased’s surviving family. He/she is an expert financial advisor who deals in investments, estate settlements, and household finances. A tax attorney or CPA should be consulted if you think that the estate of the deceased might be subject to taxation.
Step 5: Locate any life insurance or accidental death insurance policies
- Be sure to look around for any life insurance policies and/or accidental death insurance policies your loved one may have had.
- Be sure to contact insurance companies, motor clubs, and your loved one’s employer.
- Be sure to contact AccuQuote at 800-442-9899 to discuss the policy your loved one may have with us.
Step 6: File a life insurance death claim
We know that a loved one’s death can be a difficult time. If you are filing a death claim, please reach out to us. If you are the beneficiary, you’ll be facing crucial financial decisions at a time when you may be least prepared to make them. To add to the pressure you probably already feel, the amount of money involved may be very large.
- Feel free to reach out to your life insurance agents at AccuQuote to help you with filing your life insurance claim. Call 800- 442-9899.
- We can offer guidance on payout distribution options, and if you’re interested, we can help create a lifetime income stream from the death benefit to protect your present and future needs.
- In most cases, life insurance companies require only two forms to establish proof of claim:
- a claimant’s statement and
- a death certificate or an attending physician’s statement.
Companies reserve the right to request further information.
Step 7: Contact the Social Security office
- You will need to contact the Social Security office to check eligibility for lump-sum benefits and to inquire about monthly benefits.
- Remember, you must apply for Social Security benefits. They are not automatic. Delays in applying may result in the loss of certain benefits.
- Visit www.socialsecurity.gov or call 800-772-1213 for more information.
When applying for Social Security benefits, you will need:
- A certified copy of the death certificate
- The deceased’s Social Security number
- Approximate earnings of the surviving spouse in the year of death
- Record of the earnings of the departed in the year prior to death (W-2 form or tax return)
- Social Security numbers of the surviving spouse and minor or disabled children (disabled before age 22 and who remain disabled)
- Birth certificates of the surviving spouse and minor or disabled children (disabled before age 22 and who remain disabled)
- Proof of marriage
- Proof of citizenship
- Photo identification
- Checkbook or bank account number (so that benefits can be deposited directly into your account)
Step 8: Contact the employer for death benefits
If your loved one was employed at the time of death, contact the employer to find out about any death benefits you may be entitled to.
- Since most people are covered by group insurance where they work, inquire about the benefits and how to file a claim.
- Also, ask about pension fund benefits, accrued vacation and sick pay, terminal pay allowances, disability income, and credit union balances.
- Pay special attention to the deceased’s hospital, surgical, and disability coverage to see whether you and your dependents are still eligible for any benefits (and if so, for how long).
Step 9: Communicate with other organizations
Contact unions, service organizations, or professional organizations the deceased belonged to, in order to find out whether you are eligible for any benefits.
Step 10: Alert banks and credit card companies
- Contact your bank or financial institution(s) concerning any individual or joint accounts held in your loved one’s name.
- This may involve closing the accounts or transferring their control to you, another family member, or your attorney, if you choose. If you have an attorney, he or she may be able to complete this task for you.
- You will also need to discuss the status of any certificates of deposit, bonds, individual retirement accounts (IRAs), or similar savings accounts.
- Remember to think about safe-deposit boxes.
- Alert credit card companies. If you held a joint account with the deceased, the company may want to issue you a new card.
Step 11: Gather all current bills
- Many installment loans, service contracts, and credit card accounts are covered by credit life insurance, which pays off the account balance in the event of the death of a customer.
- Make a prompt request for release to each bank in which the deceased and you held a joint account. This is preliminary to your withdrawing funds from that account.
- Update your property-casualty insurance policies to reflect changes in ownership.
Step 12: Cancel all subscriptions and automatic payments
- If the deceased ordered medications by mail, you should cancel the service.
- Cancel or change the name on any automatic bill-paying services and magazine and newspaper subscriptions.
- Any mail addressed to the deceased should be marked ‘Deceased – Return to Sender’ and given to the mail carrier or post office.
Step 13: Locating other important papers
Other important things to think about are:
- Business agreements
- Securities certificates
- Real estate deeds
- Automobile registration
- Installment payment books
We hope you that this information is helpful. If there’s anything we can do to help, feel free to call us at 800-442-9899 and speak with one of our advisors.