What to do After the Death of a Loved One


Although you’ve grown into a fully-functioning, educated, well-adjusted adult, it’s never easy to lose someone you love. The passing of those closest to you – especially close family members like your parents – can quite literally be devastating.

Along with the heavy emotional toll that the death of a loved one takes on you, there may be other pressures on you during this time that extend beyond grieving. This is true especially if you are named estate executor or executrix. You will be expected to make a number of important decisions regarding the deceased’s finances in the weeks and months immediately following their death.

Because bereavement can be very emotionally taxing, consider hiring an attorney to help you make decisions regarding the terms of the Estate Plan (including the Last Will and Testament). Even simply consulting with an estate planning attorney can ensure that you fully understand your responsibilities as administrator of the estate.

If you are having difficulty dealing with your emotions, an estate planning attorney can relieve some of the pressure you are feeling. We all make less-than-optimal decisions when our emotions aren’t stable. An attorney can steer you in the right direction and can even help you handle all of your duties surrounding the will. This will keep you from making mistakes that can lead to you being fined later on. You have a significant responsibility as executor/executrix of the will, and asking for help is a wise choice.

Immediately after your loved one passes away, your duties will range from preparing the funeral arrangements to notifying government and financial institutions of the death and managing all of the financial details associated with the deceased’s estate. The main agencies/companies you’ll need to inform are listed here. The reasons for contacting each of them are different – some are self-explanatory and others are explained:

  • The deceased person’s employer (if applicable)
  • County or state vital records office – Request at least 25 copies of the death certificate so that you will have enough certified copies for all involved parties.
  • SSA (Social Security Administration) – Notifying them of the death will eliminate the possibility of scammers collecting the deceased’s SS benefits or using their SS number in a variety of identity theft acts. Remember to ask the SSA about the one-time death benefit (currently $255) and any survivor benefits that you may qualify for.
  • Utility companies
  • Credit card companies
  • The deceased’s bank – You’ll need to close any open accounts and cancel any automatic payments that come into or out of those accounts.
  • Insurance companies
  • The Post Office
  • The deceased person’s creditors (if they had any)
  • Three main credit bureaus – Equifax, Experian and TransUnion
  • Funeral home
  • Newspaper (for obituary)
  • The IRS – They will give you a tax identification number for the deceased’s estate. This will enable you to open a bank account for the estate. Use only this account to pay for all expenses surrounding the death of your loved one.
  • Subscription or membership services – Cancel any subscriptions and memberships your loved one may have held at the time of their passing. Failure to cancel recurring charges will deplete the estate’s funds.

Your attorney and (if you choose to hire one) accountant will save you a lot of headaches as you handle the business end of someone close to you dying. An accountant will be able to deal with any taxes that need to be paid – something you might not have otherwise thought about.

Even though some people hesitate to hire an accountant or an attorney when they lose a loved one, their fees will give you a great return on investment. You’ll avoid making costly mistakes, and the burden won’t rest solely on your shoulders. After your duties as executor are satisfied, work with your attorney to set up your own estate plan. In doing so, you’ll be setting out a plan that will make things easier on your heirs after you pass away.

Image credit: Paul Bica

2 Responses to What to do After the Death of a Loved One

  1. Pingback: Dying with Debt in New Jersey: Who Pays? | Veitengruber Law

  2. Pingback: Named Executor in a Will? Your Duties Explained | Veitengruber Law

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