Checklist: Coping with the Death of a Family Member

Losing a loved one is heart wrenching. On top of the emotional toll, there are many steps you have to take to navigate the legalities and financial implications of the loss. Use this checklist as a starting point for these steps.

Locate Important Papers

  • A copy of the death certificate (Get from the funeral director)
  • Will, Power of Attorney and Medical Directives
  • Real estate deeds
  • Recent income tax returns
  • Business arrangements
  • Securities certificates
  • Marriage and birth certificates
  • Life insurance contracts; be sure you have identified all policies
  • Social Security card
  • Car registrations
  • Unpaid bills
  • Safe deposit box information

Make changes to/cancel

  • Vehicle registrations
  • Securities
  • Credit cards
  • Bank accounts
  • Insurance policies
  • Real estate

Contact the necessary people 

  • Insurance agents to help you file claims for life insurance proceeds
  • The deceased’s employers Human Resource department for employer sponsored coverage and other benefits
  • The deceased’s attorney to help with the will
  • Contact a tax attorney and a Certified Public Accountant to help with the deceased’s taxes. You have nine months to pay the deceased’s federal estate taxes.
  • Contact a Trust officer or a financial professional who deals with investments, estate settlements and household finances.
  • Contact the Veteran’s Administration if the deceased served in the military. The deceased may be eligible for a veteran’s burial, funeral cost reimbursement, life insurance proceeds and funeral honors.
  • Notify the Social Security Administration. Spouses may be eligible for a lump sum death benefit.
  • Keep a list of all death related expenses. They may be deductible for the current tax year.

Special considerations for the death of a spouse

  • Review the budget of the surviving spouse and make necessary changes to the budget and spending
  • If the surviving spouse is not retired, they should save more towards retirement, if possible
  • The surviving spouse should select a guardian for the minor children
  • Update the will, Power of Attorney and Medical Directives
  • Re-title ownership of joint assets
  • Change the beneficiary on investments and insurance policies if the deceased was the listed beneficiary
  • If receiving an inheritance, give yourself time to grieve before making important financial decisions
  • Review goals when deciding how to invest your inheritance