When a senior loved one passes, they leave the family not only with the emotions of loss and grief, but also with a host of details that need to be taken care of. Your loved one lived a full life, and there are many aspects of that life that have to be effectively closed out legally. Those responsibilities may fall to you despite the fact that you are mourning a significant loss. To ease the stress during this already difficult time, Senior HomeCare of Tucson’s in-home care team has compiled a list of necessary paperwork to complete and steps to take following the loss of a loved one.
What to Do Right Away
Immediately following the death of a loved one, family caregivers should:
- Get a Legal Pronouncement of Death: An official declaration of death is required for getting a death certificate which will be essential for other tasks that you will need to do following the death. If the senior passed in a nursing home or hospital, speak with the staff there as they will handle this step. If your loved one died at home unexpectedly, you will need to call 911 and have the person transported to a hospital where a doctor can make the declaration. If your loved one died at home under hospice care, a hospice nurse can make the declaration.
- Tell Friends and Family: It can be difficult, but it is important to notify friends and family members of your loved one’s passing. Make phone calls, send group texts, or email loved ones to inform them. If your loved one was still employed or volunteering with any organizations, inform employers as well. You can also ask your friends and family members to help spread the word or post on social media about the passing in order to reach more people with the news.
- Find Out About Any Existing Funeral/Burial/Cremation Plans: If your loved one had a will, then funeral arrangements should be stipulated there. However, if he or she did not have plans, meet with other family members to discuss what the person’s wishes were for a funeral and what the family wants.
What to Do Within the First Few Days
Within the first few days following your loved one’s death, it is important to:
- Make Funeral Arrangements: Select a funeral home or crematorium and decide on how the funeral service will go. Will you have a public wake and funeral service? Will it be a private family affair? Will you have a memorial service following cremation? Have a friend or family member who knew your loved one well write an obituary as well. If your loved one was a veteran, contact the Veterans Administration to see if there are any burial benefits or other services available for your loved one.
- Ensure That His or Her Property Is Secure: Visit your loved one’s home and secure any valuables, lock up the home and car, throw out any perishable food, water plants, and collect mail.
- Forward Mail: Visit the post office and have your loved one’s mail forwarded to your home or the home of whoever is handling their immediate affairs. As the mail comes in, you can begin to make a list of any subscriptions that need to be canceled, accounts that need to be paid or shut down, etc.
What to Do Two Weeks After the Death
- Get Certified Copies of the Death Certificate: When closing down a loved one’s accounts and affairs, almost every agency requires a copy of the death certificate, so make sure to get at least 10 copies. These can be obtained through the vital records office in the state where your loved one passed, or the funeral home you’re working with can obtain them on your behalf.
- Locate the Will and Executor: If you know your loved one had a will, you may already know where it is and who the executor is. If you don’t know, look for it in a secure place in the home, like a safe or a desk. Often, people secure wills in a safety deposit box at their bank as well. If there is no will, a probate court judge will name an administrator of the estate who will be in charge of assets.
- Notify Important Agencies: There are several organizations that will need to have a record of your loved one’s passing, including:
- The Social Security Administration
- Life insurance companies
- Banks and any other financial institutions
- Credit agencies
- Get in Touch With a CPA: Contact your loved one’s CPA if he or she had one. If not, hire one to ensure that final taxes are filed.
- Make a List of Bills: The executor or administrator will need a list of bills, such as mortgage, utilities, car payments, etc. that will need to be taken care of while the estate is being settled.
- Cancel Subscriptions, Driver’s License, Credit Cards and Other Services: Magazine or television services, cellphones, and credit cards can all be canceled or closed out at this time. Some companies, particularly credit card companies, will require a copy of the person’s death certificate in order to close out service.
When a loved one passes, it can be hard to know where to begin with regards to closing out the estate. And if the senior who passed left behind a spouse, he or she will need support during this difficult time as well. Senior HomeCare of Tucson can help the whole family. Our trusted caregivers can offer companionship to senior loved ones, provide needed housekeeping help, care for pets, run errands, shop for groceries, and much more. Contact us today at (520) 355-4787 to learn more about the ways in which we can offer support when a senior loved one passes.