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What to Do When a Loved One Dies

This checklist could help you cope with practical tasks during an emotional time

To Do After the Funeral

Get duplicate death certificates. You may need a dozen certified death records to complete upcoming tasks, though some will require less expensive copies. Your funeral director may help you handle this or you can order them from the vital statistics office in the state where the death occurred or from the city hall or other local records office. Each certified record will cost in the neighborhood of $10 or $20.

Send thank-you notes. From the contact list that you acquired earlier, send thank-you notes and acknowledgements. Consider delegating this task to a family member.

Notify local Social Security office. Typically the funeral director will notify Social Security of your loved one's death. If not, call 1-800-772-1213 or contact your local office. If your loved one was receiving benefits, they must stop because overpayments will require complicated repayment. Even a payment received for the month of death may need to be returned. If the deceased has a surviving spouse or dependents, ask about their eligibility for increased personal benefits and about a one-time payment of $255 to the survivor.

Handle Medicare. If your loved one received Medicare, Social Security will inform the program of the death. If the deceased had been enrolled in Medicare Prescription Drug Coverage (Part D), Medicare Advantage plan or had a Medigap policy, contact these plans at the phone numbers provided on each plan membership card to cancel the insurance.

Look into employment benefits. If the deceased was working, contact the employer for information about pension plan, credit unions and union death benefits. You will need a death certificate for each claim.

Stop health insurance. Notify the health insurance company or the deceased's employer. End coverage for the deceased, but be sure coverage for any dependents continues if needed.

Notify life insurance companies. If your loved one had life insurance, appropriate claim forms will need to be filed. You will need to provide the policy numbers and a death certificate. If the deceased was listed as a beneficiary on a policy, arrange to have the name removed.

Terminate other insurance policies. Contact the providers. That could include homeowner's, automobile and so forth. Claim forms will require a copy of the death certificate.

Next: Make a list of important bills. »

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