Personal Resource Center

What to do when someone you love dies

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Leave a checking account open in the deceased's name. While you can't "cash" a check written to the deceased, you can deposit it into their account.

Contact an estate attorney early on. They can help you understand more thoroughly what you need to do. Different states have different rules about what paperwork needs to be filed, where it needs to be filed, and if estate tax or probate fees are owed. They can also help you navigate trickier transactions, like retitling or transferring real estate owned by the deceased, or handling an inherited IRA.

Cancel outstanding recurring bills. It's easy to forget about these if they are coming out of a bank account automatically. Look through the deceased's bank statements to find such bills. Common ones to look out for: self-pay health insurance premiums (including Medigap type plans), landline or cell phone, utilities, long-term care insurance, and life insurance premiums.

Contact former employers. You don't need to reach out to every former employer, just employers where the deceased may have a pension, a life insurance policy, health insurance, or a 401(k). Get a list of all benefits your loved one may have had. And don't assume just because you've had contact with a former employer that everything is settled. Sometimes the employer outsources things like pension obligations to a third party, and they may not contact that third party for you. (Again, if any payments are made to the deceased, you'll be responsible for paying this back.)

Forward mail. If no one is still living at the deceased's residence, have the post office forward all mail to you. The USPS has online instructions3 for how to stop or forward mail for someone who has passed away. You must be named executor of the estate in order to do this.

Contact Medicare supplement insurance carriers. When you report a Medicare recipient's death to the SSA, the SSA will report the death to Medicare. Medicare will cancel Parts A and B coverage and any Medicare Part D prescription drug benefits. However, if the deceased had a Medicare Supplement plan through a private insurance company, you will need to report their death to that plan so they can stop billing for the coverage. You can find the plan's contact information on their insurance card.

Contact life insurance policies. Depending on the particular company's rules and the size of the policy, you may or may not need to complete paperwork and submit a death certificate. If no living beneficiary is named (a not-uncommon problem if the policy was purchased by the deceased parents when they were born or if it's a small work-issued policy), there's typically an order of precedence4 that you'll follow to decide who get the payout. It goes like this:

  • Surviving spouse.
  • Children (split equally among all).
  • Parents (split equally if both are still alive).
  • The estate.

Important disclosure information

  1. Social Security Administration, "Survivors Benefits," accessed February 18, 2023. Back
  2. Treasury Direct, "Inheriting savings bonds as a named co-owner orbeneficiary," accessed February 18, 2023. Back
  3. USPS.com, "Mail Addressed to the Deceased," accessed February 18, 2023. Back
  4. OPM.gov, "Life Insurance: Beneficiary Order of Precedence," accessed February 18, 2023. Back