After the immediate flood of activity and responsibility following the death of a spouse has subsided, there is still a lot of business to finalize. The following is a comprehensive ‘check list’ of actions that could/should be taken:
1) Obtain Copies of Death Certificate
2) Make Copies of dated Obituary Notice
3) Make Copies of Newspaper Articles
4) Obtain Certificates of Appointment if filing as executor, administrator, or any other fiduciary responsibility
5) Check contents of safe deposit box
6) Review Will with an Attorney and proceed with filing
7) Make copies of Marriage Certificate
8) Make copies of Birth Certificates – include full names and addresses
9) Assemble Life insurance policies and file for benefits. Notify all life insurance companies covering the life of the deceased and request a Claim Form. Your funeral director or Director of Family Services should assist you with this action. A certified copy of the Death Certificate, the Claim Form and the policy is required to make a claim. Insurance companies reserve the right to request further information or proof if they deem it necessary. When speaking with an agent or filling out a claim form, have the following information on hand:
Policy number(s) and faces amount(s) Statistical information including full name, address, date, and place of birth, source of birth information, occupation, and last date worked, social security number, date, place, and cause of death. Have the claimant’s name, age, address, and social security number available.
Settling insurance claims – The beneficiary may opt for a lump sum benefit or choose to have the amount paid over time.
10) File for Social Security Benefits – Call the Social Security Administration at (800) 744-1213 or the local office. Benefits include a onetime benefit of $255.00 to the surviving spouse or dependent children. Check with the funeral director to determine what claims have been filed for you by the funeral home.
11) Locate military records and file for Veteran’s Benefits – Veteran’s Administration claim forms can be obtained at the funeral home, a veteran hospital, or the cemetery. The funeral director will file the forms needed, but it is advisable to contact a Veteran’s Service Officer to determine what benefits are available.
12) File for Fraternal, Union, and Association benefits
13) File for Employer benefits – Contact all sources of retirement funds that the deceased was receiving and apply for any benefits that may be due. A certified copy of the death certificate will be necessary.
14) Contact creditors to notify of the death. Some may include a life insurance policy and could request a certified death certificate. If a joint account, remove the deceased’s name from the account.
15) Check with the credit bureau to determine if there are any outstanding obligations of the deceased. Establish credit in your name.
16) Check for health insurance continuation by contacting all health insurance companies and discontinue coverage on the deceased. If they request a certified copy of the death certificate and they do not provide a death benefit, allow the company to pay for their own copy.
17) Review personal life insurance policy beneficiary and change the beneficiary on your own policies if the deceased is the one previously chosen to receive benefits.
18) Transfer vehicle titles into your name on all current vehicles (including mobile homes, trailers, RV’s, etc.). This may be done with the Division of Motor Vehicles office with a photocopy of the death certificate.
19) Review Deeds on any property and remove the deceased’s name from the deed. A certified copy of the death certificate will be required. This action will need to be done at the County Courthouse/Seat where the property is located.
20) Review bank accounts and promptly request a release from each financial institution with holdings on a joint account. Generally, a bank will stop payments on all checks when a death notice is published. The account must be cleared through the state tax authorities. Remove the name of the deceased from all accounts.
21) Review outstanding loans and financial obligations of the deceased to make sure all appropriate claims and/or arrangements are made in a timely manner. If you are a beneficiary and/or executor of the estate, negligence of these obligations will cause problems later.
22) Contact the utility companies and change the name on all accounts.
Consult an attorney if you have problems with debtors or other family members. An attorney will be helpful in difficult matters.
23) Keep extra copies of the death certificate to send with future income tax filings.
24) Review your own will and pre-arrange your own services.
Although lengthy, these actions will prevent future problems for the surviving spouse. Be sure to execute any necessary responsibilities that are applicable.