Learn

Personal Resource Center

7 things to do when a loved one dies

document icon
Banks, life insurance companies, and retirement account custodians will all need legal proof of death to distribute assets where they need to go.

 

Manage final bills and modify or close accounts

With the list of financial documents above, you can determine which final bills need to be paid. From there, you can decide which accounts should remain open (and for how long) and which accounts, such as bank accounts or credit card accounts, are ready to be closed.

If your parent died and they don't have a surviving spouse, consider what you'll be doing with their home (selling it, terminating a lease) and determine how long you'll need to keep utilities connected.

If your spouse passed away, you could likely transfer essential household bills into your name only.

An estate attorney can help you determine your obligation to make good on a loved one's outstanding debts. Laws vary from state to state, and dying doesn't necessarily mean debt is forgiven.

 

Contact social security

While the funeral home typically notifies the Social SecurityAdministration (SSA)1 of a person's death, it's always a sound practice to contact the SSA yourself too. First, you'll ensure that your loved one's Social Security number is frozen. This will prevent unscrupulous individuals from stealing your loved one's identity. Additionally, there could be survivor's benefits owed.

When you speak with an SSA agent, you can find out what forms and documents need to be filed for them to make any final payments to your loved one's estate or other beneficiaries.

 

File life insurance claims

You don't have to wait until you have a death certificate to file for life insurance benefits. As soon as possible, reach out to the claims department on any life insurance policies. An agent will take your information and inform you of the next steps. There may be a few forms to complete, and you will likely be asked to provide a death certificate.

If you're not sure if your loved one had life insurance, you can review bank statements to search for premium payments. You can also use the online policy locator2 from the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC).

 

Contact the employer

Finally, if your loved one was still working when they passed, you'll want to contact their employer. You might want to ask if your loved one had any company property in their possession at the time of death. That way, you can make arrangements for returning it.

The death of a loved one is always a difficult time, but these steps can help relieve some of the financial burden.

Important disclosure information

This content is general in nature and does not constitute legal, tax, accounting, financial or investment advice. You are encouraged to consult with competent legal, tax, accounting, financial or investment professionals based on your specific circumstances. We do not make any warranties as to accuracy or completeness of this information, do not endorse any third-party companies, products, or services described here, and take no liability for your use of this information.

  1. Social Security Administration, "Survivor Benefits," accessed September 8, 2020. Back
  2. National Association of Insurance Commissioners, "Life Insurance Policy Locator Service," accessed September 9, 2020. Back