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When A Loved One Passes: Steps to Take After Loss

When a loved one passes, we often feel like we are in shock. Disbelief is prevalent.

Stack of papers
Remember to take time for yourself and ask for help in the midst of it all!

There are so many things to think about; things that need our attention, but it is often very difficult to bring all these thoughts and responsibilities into any type of cohesive plan.

Here are some things to think about steps after loss. This list is certainly not exhaustive, but can give you a place to begin.

  • Look for records of the deceased person’s desire to donate organs or tissue (usually noted on a State driver’s license with a red heart symbol or the word “Donor,” or mentioned in the deceased’s “Final Instructions”).

  • Give this information to the deceased’s doctor or hospice immediately (or before the death, if possible).

  • Check to see if there was a prepaid funeral service. Also, if the person was in the military or belonged to a fraternal or religious group, contact that organization. It may have burial benefits or conduct funeral services.

  • Locate the will, birth certificate, marriage and divorce certificates, Social Security information, life-insurance policies, financial documents, and keys to safe deposit box or home safe.

  • Death Certificates: You can order certified copies of the death certificate from the funeral director or your hospice. Often you can get them from the local Department of Health office in the county where the death occurred. Generally, you will need one certified copy of the death certificate for each major asset, such as cars, land, or bank accounts, for which you will need to transfer ownership. You may also need a certified copy for items such as life insurance policies, veterans’ survivor benefits, and annuities.

  • Take the will to the appropriate county or city office to have it accepted for probate.

  • If necessary, the estate’s executor should open a bank account for the deceased’s estate.

  • Contact a trust and estates attorney, to learn how to transfer assets and assist with probate issues. If they used an investment advisor, make sure to include them as well.

  • Contact an accountant or tax preparer, to find out whether an estate-tax return or final income-tax return should be filed.

  • Visit bank to find accounts and safe deposit box.

  • Contact life insurance agent/company, to get claim forms.

  • Contact Social Security (800-772-1213; and other agencies from which the deceased received benefits, such as Veterans Affairs (800-827-1000;, to stop payments and ask about applicable survivor benefits.

  • Notify any companies to stop services and pension (utilities, local post office, cable, credit cards, property tax, and any subscriptions). Consider forwarding the mail to the executor for a little while to ensure that no bills are overlooked.

  • Contact credit reporting agencies to report the death.

Above all be kind and patient with yourself as you navigate through this process.

Remember to take breaks while working on tedious matters.

Take time away from these matters to actually experience the grief you are feeling.

Don’t forget to ask others for help. You don’t have to do everything yourself!

Remember to B R E A T H E !!

Please Note: If you or a loved one is experiencing a mental health emergency, call 911 or go to your nearest hospital for emergency services or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 988.

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