Moving Beyond Immediate Grief

When someone dies, their living loved ones are faced with very important and urgent decisions. These decisions can be very difficult. Many can be handled by family and trusted friends. Please allow them to help you, and use this tool as a guide as you deal with this difficult time.

Within the First Week

  • Notify all the relatives and friends or have someone do it for you.
  • Make funeral or memorial service arrangements.

Within the First Month

  • Start by getting 5-10 official copies of the death certificate.
  • Find important papers:
    ◦ Marriage certificate
    ◦ Income tax returns
    ◦ Deeds
    ◦ Bank records
    ◦ Account statements
    ◦ Stock certificates
    ◦ Insurance policies
    ◦ Social Security card
    ◦ Original will
    ◦ Military discharge papers
  • Ask your bank to release joint bank account funds. This depends on each banking institution. Check with your bank as some freeze the accounts upon the death of a spouse.
  • Set up a new bank account, if needed.
  • Safety deposit box - if you are the joint owner, beneficiary or administrator of the estate (on the legal succession papers) then you have access.
  • Contact the Social Security Office to find out if you are eligible for new benefits.
  • Write a formal letter to your loved one's employer, union or other group with which he/she was involved. Inquire about insurance, pension, 401K or stock benefits.
  • If a veteran, apply for veterans' benefits at the Veterans Administration Office.
  • Advise all creditors in writing, including credit card issuers, of the death.
  • Contact the deceased's lawyer or hire a lawyer if they did not have one.
  • Contact insurance companies (life, health, mortgage, auto and credit card) and file all claims.
  • If needed, cancel insurance policies, change the names on them or change the names of beneficiaries.

Within the First Six Months

  • See a tax accountant or tax lawyer to find out about tax returns to be filed.
  • Probate is the legal process of distributing a person's assets after death. This can be difficult so check with a lawyer.