Practical Matters

A number of documents will need to be gathered to take care of practical and administrative matters after death. Keep these together in a clear place or give them to a family member in advance:

  • Advance Directive
  • POLST form
  • Will and Trusts
  • Social Security Card
  • Birth Certificate
  • Birth Certificate for each child, if applicable
  • Marriage Certificate
  • Insurance Policies (health, life, homeowners, disability, auto, etc.)
  • Deed and Titles to Property
  • Mortgages or Leases
  • Loan and Installment Payment Books and/or Contracts (i.e. last mortgage payment)
  • Automobile Title and Registration Papers
  • Bank Accounts
  • Last Bank Statements
  • Investment Accounts
  • Credit Report
  • Power of Attorney
  • Honorable Discharge Papers for a Veteran and/or V.A. Claim Number
  • Recent Income Tax Forms and W-2 Forms
  • Utility Bills
  • Prescriptions
  • Online Account Passwords
  • Funeral Arrangements
  • Names and numbers of doctors and other health care providers
  • Contact information for family, friends and neighbors

After death, your family member will also need 10 to 15 copies of the Death Certificate.

A checklist of tasks for family members:

  • Call the funeral home.
  • Call the Veterans Administration, if applicable, at 800-827-1000. The V.A. sometimes offers assistance with funeral, burial plot, or other benefits.
  • Obtain 10-15 copies of the Death Certificate from the funeral director. You can get additional copies later online or through your county health department.
  • Notify the Social Security Administration. Identity theft is common after an obituary is published. If the deceased was receiving Social Security benefits, a surviving spouse may be eligible for increased benefits as well as a one-time death benefit. Check on benefits that any minor children may be entitled to receive.
  • Contact credit bureaus. Again, important to prevent identity theft.
  • Contact the health insurance company or employer to terminate coverage for the deceased while continuing coverage for others covered through the policy.
  • Contact the life insurance company. You will need to provide the policy number and a certified copy of the death certificate and fill out a claim form. Remove the deceased as the beneficiary on any other policy.
  • Contact the employer for information on pension plans, credit unions, and union death benefits. You will need a certified copy of the death certificate for each claim.
  • Return credit cards of the deceased with a certified copy of the death certificate, or notify the credit card company if you, as the survivor, want to retain use of the card.
  • Seek the advice of an accountant or tax advisor about filing the deceased's tax return for the year of death. Keep monthly bank statements on all individual and joint accounts that show the account balance on the day of death, since you will need this information for the estate tax return.
  • Arrange to change any joint bank accounts into the survivor’s name. If the deceased's estate is in trust, check with the Trust Department or Customer Service at the bank.
  • Arrange to change stocks and bonds into the survivor’s name. Your bank or stockbroker will have the forms.
  • Make sure that important bills, such as mortgage payments, continue to be paid.
  • Contact the post office.
  • Contact utility companies.
  • Contact any creditors.
  • Consider consulting a lawyer. Although some cost will be involved, it will likely greatly simplify the process.
  • Probate the will.

Adapted from the Massachusetts Commission on End of Life Care and Lynette Khalfani-Cox on Daily Finance.