CHECKLIST FOR DESCENDANTS WHEN A FAMILY MEMBER PASSES AWAY

  • Order certified copies of the Death Certificate. You will need them to transfer bank and other financial accounts, as well as to send to insurers and others who may be holding assets or benefits payable to the estate.
  • Notify Social Security of the death. If you are a spouse, or if you have minor children at home, check to see if any of you are eligible for benefits.
  • If the deceased was a member of the military, notify the Veterans Benefits Administration of the death and check for possible death benefits.
  • Notify all insurance companies and pension/retirement companies.
  • Inform any other federal/state/county entitlement or welfare programs.
  • Have all mail forwarded to the Personal Representative.
  • Notify the employer and all former employers of deceased; check out possible pension benefits.
  • Notify banks and other institutions where the deceased had loans or other accounts.
  • Cancel phone, cell phone, cable/satellite, internet, or any other unnecessary monthly expenses. Do not cancel utilities required to keep the home operational (heat/electric/water), but do set the thermostat to a more economical level.
  • If a credit card or other charge account of the deceased was in the names of both of you, you are liable for the bills. Remove the deceased’s name from the account if you wish to continue using it; close the account if you don’t want to use it. If the account was in the deceased’s name only, close the account. You may not be responsible for these bills. In Minnesota, a spouse is responsible only for the “family necessary” bills, including medical bills, on the account of the deceased spouse.
  • File an Affidavit of Identity and Survivorship with the County Recorder, along with a certified copy of the Death Certificate, to remove the deceased’s name from any jointly owned real estate.
  • If necessary, file health care claims to pay expenses of the last illness.
  • If the deceased owned $50,000 or more worth of property in his or her name alone, you must check with a probate attorney. If the deceased left a Will, the personal representative named in the Will can do this.
  • Consider putting your telephone listing in your name alone or make it a non-published listing.
  • Check for double indemnities. If the deceased died in an accidental death, his or her estate might be eligible to collect above and beyond the standard life insurance benefit if the policy carried an accidental death clause. The deceased also may have carried additional accidental insurance if he or she purchased airline tickets on a major credit card or was a member of an auto or travel club.
  • Change car or recreational vehicle titles by contacting the motor vehicles registration office.
  • Don’t feel like you have to do all of this yourself. Friends and family are usually more than willing to pitch in during times of need. Your attorney can help you with the process too.