What to do When Someone Dies

What to Do When Someone Dies

When someone you love dies, you may wonder how the world can keep turning. Despite dealing with roller coaster emotions and family drama, someone needs to take the reins and deal with the decedent’s affairs.
At Weinberg Elder Law, we understand how you may be feeling and are here to help. We’ve prepared the following checklist to guide you through the first days and weeks after a loved one’s passing:

  1. Confirm with the funeral home that they will secure at least a dozen copies of the death certificate and notify the Social Security Administration (SSA).
  2. Find your loved one’s original copy of their Will, if they had one. If you’ve done an exhaustive search and can’t find the original, a copy may be accepted.
  3. Resist the urge to pay the decedent’s bills. They are not your debts, and paying them may make you legally responsible.
    • Instead, draft a form letter notifying each debt holder that your loved one has passed and say that you are initiating the probate process. Ask for patience. Enclose the letter in the return envelope that came with the bill.
    • Exceptions to non-payment: You must pay secured debts such as a home mortgage and an installment loan for a vehicle. Those debts should continue to be paid on time.
  4. Collect your loved one’s postal mail and check email accounts as well. You will likely find outstanding paper bills and e-bills, especially if the person paid bills online.
  5. If your loved one was on Medicaid and living in a nursing home at the time of death, you have 10 days to notify them of the death. Expect the state to recover some of the funds it paid to the nursing home on your loved one’s behalf if the estate’s value exceeds $25,000.
  6. If there is a Trust involved, you need to alert everyone listed on the trust documents (beneficiaries) of your loved one’s passing.
  7. Your loved one may have pre-paid funeral expenses or purchased an insurance policy earmarked to cover the cost of the funeral. Share the prepaid agreement with the funeral home or sign the insurance policy over to it to be applied to the bill.
    • If your loved one was a military veteran, check into free burial in a veteran cemetery.
  8. Watch your loved one’s bank account. The SSA will most assuredly deposit one additional benefits check after they have been notified, and the SSA is going to want that money back. Let those funds sit in the account until the SSA pulls them back electronically.