What To Do When a Loved One Passes

By: Matthew Funeral Home
Friday, November 24, 2023

When a loved one passes, there is going to be a lot of pain and grief. Loved ones will need to be contacted and brought together. But there are also a few practical steps that need to be taken, as well. Below, we will discuss the steps you should take after the death of a loved one. 

Register the Death

Generally, you have to register your loved one for a declaration of death document. This is an official document showing that the person is deceased. The document will need to be filed in the county where they died, even if that is different from where they live. The exceptions to this are when your loved one dies in a hospital, nursing home, hospice care facility, or if they received a coroner’s investigation. Then, the facility will usually provide this documentation.

Gathering Documentation

Your loved one will likely have important documents that will be necessary for the coming days. This can include birth certificates, social security cards, veteran paperwork, etc. Documents that discuss end-of-life wishes such as funeral plans, pre-planning documents, and cemetery plot deeds should also be found if they prepared them. Body/organ donation wishes can also be vital to obtain at this time. 

Contact Immediate Family & Employers

It is a good idea at this stage to contact loved ones and your deceased loved one’s employer(s). Inform them of their passing, and that plans will be made shortly. Employers should be informed to reallocate workloads and to handle closing payroll matters. There may also be important pension information or death benefits for their spouse or surviving heirs. 

Funeral Plans

If your loved one left any funerary or end-of-life plans, you should follow them to the best of your ability. They may have also pre-planned their wishes with a local funeral home. Deeds to burial plots can also be important for this stage. If they left no instructions, talk with the immediate family members to help determine what your loved one would have wanted. Keep in mind that it is about what they would have wanted, not what your family wants. This is especially important if there are differences of opinion or religious beliefs. Discuss among family members if individuals want to provide a eulogy or a reading during the ceremonies. 

Organization Benefits and Ceremonies

If your loved one was a veteran, you should contact the VA office for information on burial benefits and what options may be compensated for. Your funeral director can help you navigate these options. 
If your loved one is part of a specific religious or fraternal organization, these groups may have specific funeral rites or services. Consider contacting a clergy member or an organization leader to discuss plans for a eulogy or ceremony that might be appropriate for their service. 

Secure Properties

Secure the deceased’s home and vehicle. If they were renting, contact their landlord. Throw out perishable food and clean up any waste products. Lock up any valuables, including important documentation. Plan for care for pets or plants by family members or trusted neighbors. 

Mail Forwarding

You can go to the local post office to put in a mail forwarding order. Send the mail to a trusted family member who will be working closely on the immediate affairs, or yourself. This will also be important for canceling bills, subscriptions, etc. 

Certified Copies of the Death Certificate

About two weeks after the death of your loved one, you will be able to get the death certificate, as well as certified copies. You can get up to 10 copies of the death certificate. These will be vital in closing accounts, moving assets, filing insurance claims, and more. The funeral home can request copies on your behalf. 

The Will

Your loved one’s Will can detail the distribution of assets and estate. This can include money, property, vehicles, heirlooms, trusts, business entities, etc. Your loved one may have established a family member or close friend as the executor of the Will, or they may have used the estate attorney as such. If there isn’t a will, their assets will likely go to probate court. The probate court judge will name an administrator in place of an executor.

Consider Hiring an Estate Attorney

Inheritance can be a complicated process. An estate attorney can help you navigate this process, especially if you are inheriting assets valued in the tens of thousands or higher. In the event of probate court, an experienced estate attorney can be a vital asset.

Hire a CPA

You should hire your loved one’s accountant, or choose one for them. You will have to file a final tax return for your loved one’s estate.

Take an Inventory of Assets

Inventory your loved one’s assets, including but not limited to properties, vehicles, bank accounts, brokerage accounts, furniture, jewelry, heirlooms, art, and more. You may need to hire one or more types of appraisers for the full inventory. You may also need to track down hidden assets. This may include safety deposit boxes, other properties, other accounts, and more. This is why combing through mail, email, and file cabinets can be vital. 

List Bills and Subscriptions

Compile a list of bills, subscription services, phone plans, and other payment accounts. Cancel services where possible. For more official accounts such as utilities, confirmation of death documentation may be required. 

Cancel Their Driver’s Licence

Contact your local DMV to cancel the driver’s license of a deceased family member. You will need a certified copy of the death certificate. You should keep a copy of their license in your files in the event that you need it to cancel other accounts. 

What to do with the Passport

A passport can be a nice memento of family adventures and trips. But, it is also an avenue for identity theft. You can mail it to the Department of State along with a certified copy of the death certificate to cancel it. If you want it back as a memento, you can include a letter in the package requesting that it be returned after processing. 

Notify the Following Agencies of Your Loved One’s Passing

You should notify the following companies or government agencies of your loved one’s passing. This will help ensure account transfers, prevent identity theft, and more.

  • Social Security Administration
  • Life and Long-Term Care insurance companies
  • Banks and financial institutions
  • Their stock brokers or financial advisors
  • Credit agencies

Delete or Change the Settings of Social Media Accounts

Social media accounts can be deleted, but they can also be a good source of photos or memories. Consider activating legacy or memorial settings on these accounts. These change the profile to show that it is in memoriam. It prevents people from interacting or sending messages, but can still let friends or followers see posts. 

Close Email Accounts

Email accounts can be important for closing other accounts or subscriptions, but they can also be used for identity theft. If you have password access to the account, such as from the WIll, consider closing the accounts after using them for information collection for subscriptions or bills. If you do not have access, you can request cancellation through the email provider. This may require a copy of the death certificate and verification of your relation or executorship. 

Close Voter Registration

Voter registration laws for the deceased can vary by county. Contact their county election board directly for information regarding this. Some counties will remove them automatically when the death is registered. Others may require notice in writing or even a certified copy of the death certificate. 

Matthew Funeral Home does not provide medical, legal, or financial advice via articles. This material has been prepared for informational purposes only. It is not intended to provide, and should not be relied on for legal, financial, or medical advice.
For over 50 years, Matthew Funeral Home has been serving the Staten Island community. We can help with almost every aspect of your loved one’s memorial service. Our family is here to serve yours, every step of the way.

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