When a loved one passes away, the following days can feel surreal. While you grapple with the emotions a loss brings, there are also legal and personal matters to tend to, such as closing a bank account or planning a funeral service.
You don’t have to do it alone. Lean on family, friends, and experts for support and guidance as you take care of your loved one’s affairs. The guide below lays out some of the tasks to complete immediately after, and in the days and weeks after their passing.
Alert the Proper Authorities
If your loved one passes away in a hospital, nursing home, or other medical facility, the staff will produce a declaration of death, which is necessary to secure a death certificate.
If your loved one passes away at home, you will need to contact 911. They will be transported to an emergency room where medical personal can pronounce them deceased.
The exception is if your loved one received in-home hospice care, in which case the hospice nurse can make the declaration.
Notify Those Necessary
When you are ready, you can share the news of your loved one’s passing with friends, family members, and the attorney and employer of the deceased. If doing so feels overwhelming to you in the moment, delegate the task to another loved one.
Review your loved one’s phone or email contacts to ensure you aren’t missing anyone. If desired, you can also post about your loved one’s passing on social media.
Monitor the Home and Care for Dependents or Pets
Keep an eye on your loved one’s home, as criminals sometimes target the homes of deceased people to burglarize it. Listen to any incoming phone messages, collect your loved one’s mail, and discard any food in the fridge.
It can be time-consuming to complete this list every day, so work out a rotating schedule with friends and family.
Handle the care of any dependents. If the deceased had a pet, find a home for them whether it is temporary or not. Keep records of any costs related to their care, as the deceased’s estate can pay expenses related to dependents – including pets.
Within the First Week
Arrange Funeral or Burial Services
Often, funeral services are held within one week of a loved one’s passing. There is no hard and fast rule for timing – if waiting longer works better for your family, you can move the date out.
Sometimes, a loved one may have pre-planned their funeral or supplied you with their wishes in personal documents, such as a will. Search these documents to confirm any prepaid funeral or burial plans.
If they did not leave behind their wishes, those details will need to be decided by you and anyone else involved with the funeral planning.
Order Death Certificates
Order 5-10 original death certificates depending on the investment depth of the deceased. Original death certificates are needed in some cases, such as in probate court and investment ownership changes.
You can typically order certificates through the funeral home.
Contact any financial institutions your loved one belonged to. Your bank or credit union will need a copy of their death certificate.
If you were a joint owner on any of the deceased’s accounts, they will pass solely into your name once the financial institution is notified.
If there are accounts you were not a joint owner on, the executor named in the will typically takes steps to close the account.
Tip: For more information about your loved one’s General Electric Credit Union (GECU) account(s), please refer to our guide for settling GECU accounts.
The credit report belonging to a recently deceased individual is not automatically closed and sealed. Call one of the three major credit bureaus to notify them of someone’s death.
The credit bureau will flag your loved one’s credit file to indicate they are deceased. This will tip off other major credit bureaus, saving you from having to repeat the same process three times.
Some thieves attempt to steal the identity of deceased individuals to apply for credit, so completing the above tasks is crucial.
Contact the appropriate government agencies, including the Social Security Administration and Department of Veterans Affairs, if your loved one served. You may be eligible for survivors benefits from both.
Tip: When you notify an individual or organization about a death, make sure you understand what to do next. For example, letting the Social Security Administration know your spouse has died is not the same thing as applying for survivors benefits.
Only six months of retroactive Social Security benefits can be paid, so you must file for survivors benefits within six months of your loved one’s passing. If you don’t, you may lose benefits to which you are entitled.
Within the First Month
Don’t ignore letters or phone calls from creditors. Let them know where you are in the process of settling your loved one’s affairs and discuss options.
It may be difficult to keep track of your loved one’s bills on top of your own – to address this, set up a log to record bills received and bills paid. This will keep things organized and more manageable.
Within the first month, you should notify the following:
- Financial planner
- Accountant/tax advisor
- Investment broker
- Social and professional organizations
- Utility companies
- Department of motor vehicles
Find Important Documents
If you have not done so already, now is the time to locate important documents. This includes your loved one’s: will, deeds, insurance policies, bank account and investment statements, birth certificates, divorce papers, Social Security information, recent tax returns, and keys to safe deposit boxes.
GECU understands this is a challenging time for you and your family. We take pride in providing our members and their families with a warm, personalized experience; and we hope to help you navigate this loss in whatever ways we can.
Watch our webinar What to do When a Loved One Passes whenever is most convenient for you! If you are a GECU member interested in updating or preparing estate planning documents, enlist the trusted legal services at Wood + Lamping LLP.
Learn more about their areas of practice and how to utilize their 90 years of experience. GECU members are entitled to an initial consultation with a Wood + Lamping attorney at no cost.*