Living well Your Health & Wellness

What to do after someone you love dies

Written by Diane Archer

Losing someone you love can be extraordinarily wrenching. And, taking care of all the things that need getting done can be tough. As always, having a buddy–a friend, family member or trusted aide–to help you can be invaluable, easing the stress and keeping you focused. Here’s what to do after someone you love dies.

  1. If your loved one dies at home, you will need someone to pronounce the person dead. Hospice staff can make the pronouncement if the person is getting hospice care. Otherwise, you’ll need to call 911. Be sure to have the person’s living will on hand if it has a do not resuscitate request.
  2. Contact family and friends and anyone else close to the person. Make sure that someone tends to pets, reads mail and, if appropriate, cleans out the refrigerator. Discuss your loved one’s preferences–e.g. a headstone, cemetery–whether you want a gathering after the funeral and how to let people know about it.
  3. Contact the funeral home to move the body and arrange for burial or cremation. (Here are six tips for choosing a funeral home if your loved one had not already done so.) Write an obituary to send to the local paper. Be sure to get at least a dozen copies of the death certificate, from the funeral home or your state’s office of Vital Statistics, to send to banks, government agencies and others who require it. Keep in mind that once you notify these agencies, they will freeze your loved one’s accounts.
  4. Locate the person’s will and take it to the appropriate office to be probated. Your loved one’s attorney, if there is one, should be able to help. The executor of the person’s estate will be in charge.
  5. Keep a file with all of the person’s records, including will, birth certificate, death certificates, insurance policies, automobile titles, mortgages, leases, credit card accounts, bank accounts, investment accounts, bills to pay. Keep in mind that the person might need to file an income tax return.
  6. Contact your loved one’s bank, Social Security, life insurance company, and any other entities from which your loved one got benefitsas well as all clubs and memberships. (Note that Social Security should pay survivor benefits to a surviving spouse.) You should also notify the three credit bureaus of the death to prevent identity theft and request information about all of the person’s debts.
  7. Contact the electric company, phone, TV, and internet services, and other service providers to cancel email accounts and stop other services, if appropriate. Also contact the registry of motor vehicles to change titles on any vehicles in your loved one’s name. Cancel your loved one’s driver’s license. You might also notify the board of elections.

For more information, visit Consumer Reports and AARP.

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