Final Details: A Checklist
Many people have suggested that it would be helpful to have a checklist to help them determine what they might be faced with during the first several weeks following the death of a loved one. We hope these suggestions will be helpful to you.
- Choose a funeral home. Family, friends, hospital staff, or your clergy can help with this decision. The funeral home will work with you in making funeral or memorial arrangements.
- Make a list and contact family members, friends, employers, and business colleagues to contact by phone. Identify someone to help you or ask other family members and friends to help with these phone calls. Notify the school that children are attending.
- Coordinate food and special needs of the household for the next several days such as childcare, cleaning, groceries, etc.
- Have someone keep a record of all phone calls, flowers, food donations, and visitors
- Submit an obituary to your loved one’s local papers
After the Funeral
- Locate important certificates: marriage certificate, birth certificate, military discharge papers, Social Security card, tax forms, and birth certificates of any minor children. These records are needed to establish claims for Social Security, life insurance, or veteran’s benefits.
- Obtain copies of the death certificate. These are available from your funeral director or county health department. Usually the hospital sends the physician's signed death certificate to the funeral home for their completion before it is filed with the Register of Deeds in the county in which the death occurred. The Register of Deeds should mail you a copy of the death certificate within 10 days of filing. You may request from the funeral home director more certified copies if you need them. If you need the death certificate quickly you can visit the Register of Deeds in the county the death occurred to request copies.
- Contact an attorney who may be able to assist you with any legal issues. Discuss fees before you engage any legal help.
- Contact your bank concerning any existing accounts or safety deposit boxes. Ask your bank to release joint bank account funds to you. In some states, joint bank accounts are automatically frozen upon the death of one spouse.
- Notify creditors, credit card companies, and insurance companies (auto, home, life) in writing of your loved one’s death. Each company will need a statement of claim and a death certificate before the surviving spouse can receive benefits. Keep copies of all correspondence.
- Contact your Social Security office (1-800-772-1213) to find out if you are eligible for new benefits. Social Security benefits are not automatically paid out after a death; you must apply for them.
- Write a formal letter to your loved one’s employer, union, or any other group or professional organization with which he or she may have had an association. Many of these organizations have insurance policies of which you may be the beneficiary. Also inquire about any 401(k), pension, or company stock benefits.
- If your loved one was a veteran, s/he may be eligible to have a flag provided for the family. The funeral director will notify the veteran's service office for you. It may be important to contact your local veteran's office to identify benefits that may be eligible for your loved one such as marker, burial allowance, etc. It is important to have honorable discharge papers (DD214) to receive benefits.
- If your loved one was living along, notify the landlord, utilities, and tell the post office where to send the mail. Take precautions against theft.
Social Security Survivors Benefits
Military Record Requests
National Cemetery Administration