During the First Month
What To Do First
- Take care of yourself.
You have many matters to attend to. But the most important thing is to take care of yourself and those who depend on you. Remember that your fellow parishioners, friends, neighbors, and members of your community can be supportive and caring.
- Finalize funeral arrangements.
In choosing a funeral home, be sure that you're comfortable with the funeral director and everything you're told about the proceedings. Make sure you describe your wishes to the person directly responsible for the arrangements. If you have any concerns, choose another funeral director.
Saying goodbye is an essential part of grieving for everyone, so make sure it's given the attention your loved one deserves.
- Get certified copies of the death certificate.
You'll need these to claim your benefits with the Social Security Administration and other organizations — and also to file your taxes, change ownership of joint properties, access financial accounts, and other circumstances.
Because the death certificate is a legal document, it can't just be photocopied. You'll need actual certified copies. Your funeral director can provide them or your local Bureau of Vital Statistics can supply them for a small fee. We recommend getting at least 15 copies.
- Contact financial institutions so you can access funds.
Once the death notice is published, financial institutions are likely to freeze access to accounts, stop payment on checks, and lock safety deposit boxes. Contact every financial institution where you and the deceased held joint accounts in order to reestablish access to those funds. If an important payment was made just prior to death, it's best to confirm that the payment went through. For an account listed in the deceased's name only, call the institution to change the ownership of the account. Paperwork will be required. Check with the bank for details.
- Find paperwork needed for benefit claims and other purposes.
In addition to the death certificate, you may be asked to provide your marriage certificate, the deceased's birth certificate, and your Social Security card in order to claim benefits. So begin to locate them now.
There may be other documents you'll need for benefits claims, account or property ownership changes, or legal reasons. Look for any property deeds, financial account statements, and stock certificates. If you will be taking over the finances, read and organize financial statements.
- Notify life insurance companies and begin the claims process.
You need to notify each insurance company of the death. Keep copies of any correspondence for your records.
Ask about your options for receiving payment. If the deceased had life insurance policies, pension benefits, or annuity income from the Church Pension Group, and you are the designated beneficiary, we can explain your benefits and answer your questions. Call us at (866) 802-6333 Monday - Friday, 8:30AM - 8:00PM ET (excluding holidays).
- Contact Social Security about your benefits.
Enhanced Social Security benefits are not paid automatically. You need to apply for them if you are eligible. It's common for the funeral director to call Social Security on your behalf, so be sure to ask if that's been done. If not, contact Social Security and begin the application process early. There is also a lump-sum financial death benefit for which you may qualify.
- Are you entitled to other benefits?
Contact the Human Resources dept of the deceased's employer, both in writing and by phone. You may be entitled to medical, pension, or 401(k) benefits, insurance policies, outstanding bonuses, or commissions.
If the deceased was a civil service employee, call (888) 767-6738 or visit The Office of Survivors Assistance to learn if you are eligible for any civil service benefits. If the deceased was a veteran, call the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs at (800) 827-1000 or visit the department's website to learn about benefits. You may also qualify for a burial allowance.
Call all unions, service organizations, automobile clubs, and professional organizations of which the deceased was a member. These may have insurance policies of which you're the beneficiary, and portions of annual dues may refundable.
- Notify Creditors.
Write to all of creditors and credit card companies where the deceased had an account. If any loans are outstanding, ask if they are insured. Credit life insurance covers the account balance in the event of a customer's death.
- Contact a legal advisor.
It's wise to speak with a lawyer about transferring property deeds, distributing financial or business assets, or the conserving and disbursing estate assets. If you don't have a lawyer, ask a a friend, coworker, or parishioner to recommend one. In the meantime, start reviewing wills, trusts, and other documents indicating how assets are to be distributed.
- Update primary names on all accounts, policies, and titles.
Change the name, account, and billing information for all monthly services, utilities, subscriptions, insurance policies, automobile titles, credit cards, and jointly held homes or other properties. Terminate any accounts, services, or subscriptions that are no longer needed.