When a loved one dies and you are called upon to help settle affairs, you face an exhausting mix of coping with loss while facing pragmatic responsibilities. This includes pulling together documents needed for closing accounts, receiving insurance payouts, alerting Social Security, ensuring distribution of assets and finalizing other issues.
You may be the executor of the estate responsible for entering the will into probate court and tasked with things like paying bills and selling property. But often, a spouse, friend or other relative – say, an adult child or sibling – has the closest knowledge of the loved one’s wishes and affairs and supports the executor.
In some situations, people are able to plan ahead and gather documents before a loved one’s passing. Whenever possible, it’s a good idea to have a file of critical documents, bankbooks and more, all in one secure place. You may also want to write down passwords, but be sure to keep them in a secure place as well.
Here is a list, focused on property and finances, to help you start when a loved one dies.
You will need 10 to 20 copies of a certified death certificate; most funeral homes can help you obtain them. Typical advice is to start with a dozen. You can always request more from the county government records office where the death was recorded as needed. (If you are not sure where to go, review this list of vital records offices by state.) There is a charge for certified copies. Some ways you will use these records:
It’ll be helpful to have information on-hand you’ll be asked again and again, sometimes with a request for documentation. This may include your loved one’s:
If you’re working with U.S. Bank, visit usbank.com/afteraloss.
Gather documentation that shows your loved one’s connections. For instance:
Think through what your loved one owned, so you or the executor of the estate can help distribute assets and shut down accounts as needed.
What was your loved one’s health insurance? Membership to a fitness club? Automated mail-order prescriptions?
Was your loved one active on social media? Most platforms allow relatives to change a person’s page to a memorial page. Taking this step can ease worries about inappropriate posts, while keeping cherished photos and memories.
Losing a loved one is hard enough with emotions of grief, sadness and stress, on top of the overwhelming feeling of handling finances. But this list of documents you’ll need may help to provide a bit of accommodating structure during this challenging time.
For more helpful guidance during this time, visit Managing finances after the death of a spouse.