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Important actions and documents: what to do in the USA in the event of the death of a loved one

Losing a loved one can be incredibly difficult, and if you are responsible for organizing a funeral and must settle the personal affairs of the deceased, such an experience is often unbearably difficult, writes Ever Loved.

Photo: shutterstock

When in 93, the mother of Jeanne Kiefer died in a hospice, the nurse knew who to call and what to do, so death and its immediate consequences, according to Kiefer, were not so tragic. She and her sister discussed actions in the event of the death of their mother. The nurse and hospice consultant helped to sort things out, as a result of which they were able to stay with their mother until the last minute.

Compare this with the experience of a relative of Kiefer, whose 97-year-old mother died at home in the presence of a nurse assistant and children who did not plan what they would do after the relative's death. The nurse’s assistant couldn’t legally record the death, so the family called 911. The police arrived and examined the place, as in a potential crime, interrogating the family to exclude elder abuse. Only when the paramedics arrived, the body could be taken away and the resuscitation attempts stopped.

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This different experience depends on the willingness and knowledge of the procedure in the event of the death of a loved one. Here is a list of actions to take after someone passes away. Please note that some of these actions can only be done by the owner of the property, so if you are not, it is better to take care of this in advance.

What you need to do first

  1. Get legal confirmation of death. If your relative has died in the hospital, the doctor can take care of this for you. If a person dies in a hospice, call a nurse who can record the fact of death and help in transporting the body.

If a person died at home, call 911 and carry a document with the decision of the deceased “not to reanimate” if he executed it. Without such a document, paramedics usually begin resuscitation procedures, after which the person is taken to the emergency department so that the doctor records the fact of death.

  1. Notify close friends and family. Each member of the family needs a different approach. For some, exchanging news in person or by phone is crucial. For others, an email or text message is suitable. If possible, share this task among several family members.
  2. Check to see if your relative has made any wishes as a last resort and has not made an advance payment to the funeral home or cemetery. Ideally, this should be documentation along with other medical documents. If no wishes or plans have been announced, you have three main options:
  • Call the funeral home. A funeral home can help you arrange a funeral or cremation. We recommend checking reviews and prices at several funeral homes before making a decision, as the cost can vary greatly. A few minutes of research can save you thousands of dollars and reduce unwanted surprises.
  • Call the cremation company. Although you can arrange cremation through a funeral home, there are separate companies specializing in cremation that will work directly with you if you are not interested in the additional services of a funeral director. Direct cremation through a cremation company can cost a third of the cost of cremation through a funeral home.
  • Call your body donation organization. Your relative may already have registered to become a body donor, so check the documents. If he or she has not done so, there are many more programs that accept such donations on behalf of immediate family members. Many university medical programs and other commercial companies, such as Science Care and BioGift, are based on body donations, they will cover most of the costs and will coordinate with other research programs. A body donation is often a good option for families who want their loved ones to continue helping others after death, or who are looking for a more economical alternative to a traditional funeral. The possibility of organ donation depends on how much time has passed after death, so it is important to act quickly.
  1. Organize care for your pets or people. If your loved one was responsible for caring for one or more people or pets, quickly find someone who can take care of them temporarily while you are developing a long-term plan.
  2. Ensure the safety of property. If the deceased lived alone, make sure that his house and all vehicles are protected. If the house is vacant for some time, consider notifying the landlord and / or police to keep an eye on it.
  3. Notify the employer of the deceased. Call the employer if the deceased person worked. Request information on benefits and benefits. Ask if there was a life insurance policy through the company.

What needs to be done within a few days after death:

  1. Decide on your funeral plans. If you decide to work with a funeral home, talk with your supervisor to discuss options. If you choose immediate burial (without any ceremony), cremation or donation to science, you can also conduct a memorial service at a later stage.
  2. Ask the post office to forward all possible mail. If a person lived alone, do not let the mail accumulate, thus showing that the house is empty. Mail can also help you identify bills that need to be paid and bills that need to be closed. You need to submit a request to the post office and prove that you are the designated contractor and authorized to manage the deceased's mail.
  3. Carry out a more thorough check at home. Throw away any food that expires, water the plants and look for anything that may require regular care.
  4. Create a memorial site. The memorial site will help you share your death announcement and funeral plans with a wide range of people.

What to do closer to the funeral, memorial service:

  1. Determine if you need financial help. An average funeral cost about $ 9, which is a huge burden for many families. Although there are many ways to save money at a funeral, you can consider financial assistance. Crowdfunding funeral campaigns are becoming more common.
  2. See the benefits for veterans. If your loved one was a veteran, you can get financial help for the funeral. If the deceased was in the army, belonged to a fraternal or religious group, contact these organizations. They may have funeral benefits or they provide funeral services.
  3. Select participants in the funeral. If you want friends or family members to make speeches, sing, carry the coffin, or participate in any other way, discuss it with them.
  4. Set a funeral schedule. Determine the time and place for any events, write down an ordered list of everything that should happen.
  5. Order printed products and flowers. If during the service you need programs, prayer cards, flowers or other items, order them a few days before the event. Often they can be ordered through the funeral home, which will minimize coordination on your part. but you can also search on your own and find something more profitable.
  6. If you want, buy food and drinks. You can buy food for the commemoration yourself, collaborate with suppliers or hold an event in a restaurant where guests can buy food and drinks. Any of these options is completely acceptable and depends only on your personal preferences.
  7. Spread the message. An online funeral announcement is often the easiest way to share event details with friends and family. For seniors who may not use the Internet regularly, you can send a paper message about the funeral or arrange for other people to call and inform them.

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What to do within a few weeks after death:

  1. Order a tombstone. Since tombstones are rarely ready in time for burial, you can do this even after the funeral, when you will have more time. Typically, you can order a tombstone through a cemetery, but you will have more options (and often lower prices) if you order it online.
  2. Order a few copies of the death certificate (usually from a funeral home). You will need them for financial institutions, government agencies and insurers. Most likely, you will need 5 to 10 copies (but possibly more), depending on which accounts were open to your loved ones. Your funeral director can help you order them, or you can order them at the city hall or other local archive yourself.
  3. Take the will of the deceased to the appropriate district or city government.
  4. Contact Social Security. Your funeral director may already have done this; check with him. If you need to contact the Social Security Department yourself, you can call 1-800-772-1213. You can apply for survivor benefits.
  5. Notify any banks or mortgage companies. If you are not sure what accounts the deceased might have, use his mail and any online accounts that you have access to determine this. Then take copies of the death certificate and provide each bank to change the account holder. If the deceased had a safe, and you do not have a key, then you may need a court order to open it and take an inventory.
  6. Contact your financial advisors or brokers. Try to identify any additional financial and investment accounts that the deceased had. Work with each of them to transfer ownership. Most likely, you will need a death certificate for each account.
  7. Contact a tax accountant. You will need to apply for both a private individual and property.
  8. Notify life insurance companies. Fill out the application form for any deceased life insurance policies. Also suggest that friends and family members who may have included the deceased in their life insurance policies update them.
  9. Cancel insurance policies. This may include health insurance, car insurance, homeowner insurance, or anything else. Depending on the policy, contact the insurance company or your loved one's employer to terminate coverage. If the deceased participated in Medicare, the social welfare department will notify them of the death, but if your loved one had coverage for Medicare prescription drugs (Part D), Medicare Advantage and / or Medigap, you need to call their representatives and cancel everything yourself.
  10. Identify any employment benefits. If the deceased worked, contact his employer to find out about union death benefits, pension plans, and credit unions.
  11. Identify and pay important bills. Make a list of bills that you probably need to pay (for example, a mortgage, pay for a car, electricity), and do everything possible to track them using the mail of a deceased person and online bills. Establish a plan to ensure that these bills continue to be paid on time.
  12. Close up credit cards. Use mail, any online accounts of your loved ones to identify the deceased's open credit card accounts. For each of them, you will probably need to call the customer service department and then send an e-mail or mail a copy of the death certificate.
  13. Notify credit agencies. Provide copies of the death certificates of Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion to minimize the chance of identity theft. It is also recommended that you check your loved one’s credit history in a month or two to make sure that new accounts are not open.
  14. Revoke a driver’s license. It will also help prevent identity theft. Go online or call your state DMV for instructions. Prepare a copy of the death certificate. Notify your local election commission. This helps reduce the risk of voter fraud in your area.
  15. Make a “memorialization” of the deceased's account on Facebook. This will allow his friends to continue to publish photos and share memories, but in the future no one will be able to enter it.
  16. Close the mailboxes. If you are sure that you have the necessary information about other accounts, it is a good idea to permanently close the deceased's email accounts as an additional step to prevent fraud and identity theft. Each email provider has its own procedure for this, so do a quick online search to find out what steps you need to take.
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