NDSU Extension Service - Ramsey County


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Decisions Following a Death

Decisions Following a Death


                It is difficult to make decisions or even know where to start after the death of someone close to you. When you are grieving, it is hard to think clearly. Below are some the legal and financial issues that you may have to deal following a death.

                Gather Needed Documents - Make a file containing all of the documents you might need when filing for claims of any kind. You may already have these or you may need to obtain them from other sources. Having the documents all in one file makes it easier for you to handle business without extra stress.

• Death certificates

• Deceased person’s Social Security number

• Social Security numbers for spouse and children

• Certified birth certificates or adoption papers for each family member

• Citizenship papers

• Marriage license/certificate

• Separation or divorce records

• Military service or discharge papers

• Insurance policies

• Will or trust documents

• Bank/financial institution records including safe deposit box information

• Property records including vehicle registration

• Credit card or other debt information

• Investment records

• Employment and employee benefit (pension plan) records

• Tax returns

                Contact attorney -Contact the deceased person’s attorney regarding any estate planning documents. This includes a will and letter of instructions, if they exist. These documents may contain information that will be necessary to carry out the wishes of the deceased person. An attorney also can answer any questions you have about probate. If appropriate, check to see if you need to change or update your own will, durable power of attorney for property and finances, and durable power of attorney for health care.

                Contact insurance agent(s) -File any claims to receive death benefits from life insurance.

If necessary, change beneficiaries on your own life insurance. Ask for help in processing health insurance claims for the deceased person. Check on the status of your own health insurance. This is important if you were covered through a family plan or the deceased person’s employer. Review other coverage (auto, property) for needed changes. Once all settlements are complete, cancel the deceased person’s life and health insurance policies. If you don’t know with which companies the deceased person held policies, go to the web page for the American Council of Life Insurers (ACLI) and read about missing policy tips.

                Contact deceased person’s employer - Ask about receiving the final paycheck and any payment for accrued vacation and/or sick leave. Find out what you need to do to get benefits from a pension plan, life insurance, accident insurance, etc. If you have health insurance through the deceased person’s employer, ask about policy continuation and costs. Discuss this with the employer and your insurance agent.

                Contact Social Security Administration representative -Contact a representative from the Social Security Administration to see what benefits are available. These might include a small lump-sum death benefit and survivor benefits for spouse and/or children.

                Remember that the people you are contacting are not emotionally involved in your business. They might not always seem to be sensitive to your needs or understand how difficult it is for you to think clearly. It may help you to have a family member or friend go to appointments with you. This person can take notes, ask questions, and help you sort through the endless details.

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