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PDF What to Do When a Loved One Dies: Taking Charge at a Difficult Time

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Arranging all the necessary details at such a difficult time can prove overwhelming.

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What to do when someone dies

Cancel Submit. Pulling family and friends close around, working through and coming to terms with grief, and taking care of emotional needs can seem like the only important things worth addressing in the days, and even weeks after losing someone close to you. But keeping the logistics from spiraling out of control help prevent unexpected problems in the days and months after a death.

We talked to several experts about where to start.

Bereavement and Grief

When someone passes, a doctor or medical professional has to pronounce them dead in order for the process to move forward. If someone dies in a hospital or a nursing home, the staff on hand provide that service. However, if someone dies at home , particularly if it was unexpected, those with them should call The deceased is then typically transported to an emergency room, where they can be declared dead and moved to a funeral home.

Calls to family, friends, and acquaintances of the person who died should happen within a few days of the death, and you can start to make arrangements for a memorial or service, Shaw says. An obituary can be cathartic to write, and distributing it can do some of the hard work of spreading the sad news, says Scott Smith, author of When Someone Dies: The Practical Guide to the Logistics of Death.

At the mortuary, you'll have choices to make around cremation or burial. Once you receive the death certificates and the letters testamentary, you should contact any insurance company where the decedent had a policy.

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This may include employer-sponsored plans, individually owned policies, mortgage cancellation plans and policies issued by associations, banks and credit cards companies. Some of these policies, especially the last three, may only provide benefits if the death resulted from an accident.


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Other policies may provide an additional benefit for accidental death. You will need to notify all savings and investment companies where the decedent had an account. This includes both individually owned accounts and joint accounts. It is critical to understand that the account will most likely be frozen once the company has been notified of the death, so plans should be made in advance to prevent any hardship this might cause. You will have to provide a death certificate and letters testamentary for each account and then set up new accounts in the names of the heirs in order to receive the assets.

You should also contact any pension providers to determine whether the pension benefit includes survivor payments. Contact mortgage companies and other loan providers, including credit card companies.

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Since these debts are now obligations of the deceased's estate, they will have to be paid off by the assets of the estate. One exception is if the decedent was married. In that instance, the responsibility may transfer to the spouse.

It is also a good idea to contact the credit bureaus and report the death to prevent identity theft after their passing.