Survivor Action Plan
The passing of a loved one is always a difficult time for any family; reflecting and grieving will take center stage and the healing process can be long. Complicating this experience is the administrative activities that must take place upon death – it can make your grieving time very difficult, especially for those families that did not prepare ahead of time.
We’ve assembled this short survivor action plan based upon recommendations made from some of our favorite estate planning attorneys:
- Get a legal pronouncement of death. If no doctor is present, you’ll need to contact someone to do this:
- If the person dies at home under hospice care, call the hospice nurse, who can declare the death and help facilitate the transport of the body.
- If the person dies at home without hospice care, call 911, and have in hand a Do-Not-Resuscitate document, if it exists. Without one, paramedics will generally start emergency procedures and, except where permitted to pronounce death, take the person to an emergency room for a doctor to make the declaration.
- Arrange for transportation of the body. If no autopsy is needed, the body can be picked up by a mortuary (by law, a mortuary must provide price info over the phone) or crematorium.
- Notify the person’s doctor or the county coroner.
- Notify close family and friends. (Ask some to contact others.)
- Handle care of dependents and pets.
- Call the person’s employer, if he or she was working.
- Request info about benefits and any pay due. Ask whether there was a life-insurance policy through the company.
A Few Days after Death
- Arrange for funeral and burial or cremation.
- Search the person’s documents to find out whether there was a prepaid burial plan.
- Ask a friend or family member to go with you to the mortuary.
- Prepare an obituary.
- If the person was military or belonged to a fraternal/religious group, contact that
Organization. It may have burial benefits or conduct funeral services.
- Ask a friend or relative to keep an eye on the person’s home, answer the phone, collect mail, throw food out, and water plants.
Up To 10 Days after Death
- Obtain death certificates from the funeral home.
- Get multiple copies; you’ll need them for financial institutions, government agencies, and insurers. Try to secure the “long form” version for life insurance claims.
- Take the will to the appropriate county or city office to have it accepted for probate.
- The estate’s executor should open a bank account for the deceased’s estate.
- A trust and estate attorney, to learn how to transfer assets and assist with probate issues.
- Police, to have them periodically check the deceased’s house if vacant.
- Accountant or tax preparer, to find out whether an estate-tax return or final income-tax return should be filed.
- The person’s investment adviser, for information on holdings.
- Bank, to find accounts and safe deposit box.
- Life insurance agent, to get claim forms.
- Social Security (800-772-1213; socialsecurity.gov) and other agencies from which the deceased received benefits, such as Veterans Affairs (800-827-1000; va.gov), to stop payments and ask about applicable survivor benefits.
- Agency providing pension services, to stop monthly check and get claim forms.
- Utility companies, to change or stop service, and postal service, to stop or forward mail.
Our High Net Worth clients are provided a single point of contact during the estate settlement process, so that the family can share some of the responsibilities and paperwork that often follow the passing of a loved one. Please feel free to use this Survivor Plan for your general purposes.