A Loved One Just Passed: What Do I Do?
After a loved one passes, the flow of emotions experienced can be extremely strong and at times seem overwhelming. There are also a lot of things that need to be taken care of related to the person who passed, which can be a challenge especially given the emotional toll.
Below is a simple checklist, while not all inclusive for everybody, that can serve as a helpful guide:
Things That Need Immediate Attention
- Arrange for Organ Donation. If your loved one is an organ donor, arrangements need to be made almost immediately after your loved one passes so the organs can be harvested as quickly as possible. Hospitals typically have staff there to help guide you through the process (and if your loved one didn’t pass at the hospital, contacting your local hospital about this can be helpful). If you’re not sure if your loved one is an organ donor, check their driver’s license or will.
- Contact Immediate Family. It’s important to contact family to let them know and so they can help make important decisions related to a loved one and help relieve some of the burden from you. If contacting certain family members you haven’t spoken to in a while brings on added stress, enlisting the help of a friend to take on this task can help.
- If your loved one made arrangements to donate his or her body to a medical school, contact that school to understand what next steps need to be taken. If you’re not sure if this was something your loved one made arrangements to do, review their living will or advance directive.
- Make Funeral Arrangements. Enlist the help of family to start making the necessary funeral arrangements. If there were instructions or pre-planning arrangements made by your loved one, that makes things very straightforward. If not, here are some things to consider: What did your loved one want? What can you afford? Cremation or burial? Viewing or no viewing? The best thing to do is contact your local funeral home and meet with a funeral director as soon as possible to go over the different options. Also, if your loved one was a Veteran, make sure to let your funeral director know.
- Lock Up Property. Lock up a home or apartment and secure vehicles until future arrangements can be made.
- Make Arrangements for Pets. If your loved one had pets, have somebody care for them until further arrangements can be made.
Things to Do Before the Funeral
- Notify Friends and Extended Family. Make a list of as many people that knew your loved one. Enlist them to tell others who knew your loved one as well. Also contact employers, the church, or other organizations your loved one belonged to to notify them. In addition, let people know where to send flowers, cards or donations to.
- Prepare an Obituary and publish in a local paper.
- Organize a Post Funeral Gathering. If you’re having a funeral or a celebration of life for a loved one, consider organizing a gathering afterwards. This can be at a house, restaurant, bar, park, etc.
- Make Memorial Arrangements. If your loved one is going to be buried, the funeral home will go over headstone and other arrangements with you. If your loved one is to be cremated (which is becoming more and more popular mainly due to a much lower cremation cost), there are a number of new uplifting memorial options available. This includes The Living Urn, a bio urn and planting system that’s growing in popularity and gives you the ability to grow a memory tree, plant or flowers from your loved one’s cremated remains to create a “living memorial”. Another unique option is scattering your loved one’s remains at his or her favorite park, lake, hiking trail, beach etc. There are many scattering urn options available, including Eco-Scattering, a new line of eco-friendly scattering tubes with a sleek design and easy to use scattering mechanism. These are just a few examples of unique memorial options available – for more information on these or other options, do some research online or enlist a friend or family member to help find out what’s available.
Additional Things to Do / Consider:
- Get Duplicate Death Certificates. As you complete upcoming tasks related to your loved one, some will require death certificates (or copies of the certificate). The funeral home can help with this and the cost is typically $10 to $20.
- Notify Social Security. The funeral home will typically handle this, but if not, contact the social security office at (800) 772-1213 to inform them of your loved ones passing and to stop social security payments if they were being received. Additional payments received from social security can result in a complicated repayment process.
- Contact the Post Office to Forward His or Her Mail. This is important as a build up of mail can attract unwanted attention. Also, by receiving your loved one’s mail, you can be made aware of subscriptions and other obligations of your loved that can be taken care of.
- Contact an Employer. There may be benefits related to a pension plan, credit unions and union death benefits.
- Notify Health Insurance. If this isn’t being handled by an employer, notify the health insurance company to stop coverage on the deceased but be sure to keep coverage on any dependents.
- Notify Life Insurance. If there was a life insurance policy in place, reach out to the life insurance company. You will need the policy number and a copy of the death certificate.
- Notify Auto Insurance
- Notify Mortgage Companies and Banks
- Notify Credit Card Companies and Close Accounts. Toll free customer service phone numbers can typically be found on the back of each card.
- Contact Credit Reporting Agencies. Notify Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian and provide each of them with a copy of the death certificate.This helps prevent against future identity theft.
- Close E-Mail and Social Media Accounts. This also helps prevent against identity theft.
- Contact Your Local DMV. Cancel your loved one’s driver’s license. This removes their name from the DMV and also helps prevent against identity theft.
- Find and Meet with a Probate Attorney. This should be done by the executor of the will. If you don’t know of a good probate attorney, enlist the help of friends and family or do some research online.
- Contact an Accountant / Tax Preparer. They can help put together a return that will need to be filed for your loved one who passed.
- Notify the U.S. Election Board. This will remove your loved one from the voter list and also helps prevent unwanted future mailings