After the Funeral Service
The Early Days After Loss
The funeral or memorial service is over. Things have begun to grow quiet; maybe the phone isn't ringing as much as it was or fewer people are stopping by to check in on you. Your loved one's death continues to become more of a reality. The very thought of facing your life over the next few weeks and months fills you with loneliness and a sense of dread. It all feels like way too much to deal with..
Now is the time to take care of yourself!
There are two important things to do in the coming weeks and months. One, as much as possible, you need to practice exquisite self-care in order to strike a balance in your life. Second, you need to spend some time focused on completing the necessary paperwork for banks and creditors, employers, insurance companies, and mortgage holders. This can be a slow process so be prepared.
In those times when you're resting, try to think of one or two people who would be willing to help you. Be sure to write down their names as they come to you; early bereavement is notorious for causing confusion and loss of memory. In fact, keep a pen and pad of paper with you to jot down those other important thoughts that will surface whenever your brain may be idle.
What is Your Relationship Status?
The degree to which your grief disempowers you, as well as the amount of paperwork you need to deal with both depend on the relationship you shared with the deceased. If you are the surviving spouse or child, or have been declared as the designated executor, the responsibilities you have over the death paperwork will be much more extensive.
In her book Elsewhere, American writer Gabrielle Zevin wrote “I have so much paperwork. I'm afraid my paperwork has paperwork.” Her words, while comical, provide a fairly accurate look at the amount of paperwork which may lie ahead. Here is a checklist of the tasks you may be facing in the coming weeks.
Get organized. Locate and safeguard as many of the documents listed below and be sure to put each into in a designated set of file folders, keeping them within easy reach:
Driver's License or State Identification Card
Passport (if applicable; not everyone has a passport)
Divorce papers (if applicable)
Deeds and Titles to real estate and personal property
Veterans Administration Claim Number (or service discharge papers)
Recent Income Tax Forms
W-2 forms (if employed)
Recent hospitalization records
Insurance documents: Life, Health, Automobile (there may be more than one policy in each category)
Before you do anything, get a notebook. You'll want to record the date and time of every phone conversation, email, or postal communication. If you did it, write it down. Be sure to include the full name of the person you spoke to, their job title, and their employer identification or extension number.
Request certified copies of the Death Certificate. Speak with one of our funeral professionals to determine just how many you will require.
Check to see if deceased left a will. This may require contacting the family attorney, checking your safe deposit box or home safe, or the Will Registry.
Get the mail redirected, if applicable. Visit the postal service website to learn more about how to submit a Change of Address form. Or stop by your local post office.
Stop health insurance coverage. You may need to provide them with additional information so keep your file folders handy.
Contact employer or union. Determine if there are any death-related benefits available, ask and answer questions, and change any relevant contact information.
Make sure to pay the bills. You may have your bills paid automatically but if not, take care of them before they become delinquent. If you fear delinquency, you may wish to speak with a representative to work out a payment plan.
Initiate probate. Even if you're not the executor, if you have an interest in the estate, it's possible for you to initiate probate court proceedings but only if the designated executor of the estate fails to do so in a timely way. You may want to find and hire an estate settlement attorney. For more information on how to find an attorney, read our Legal Advice page.
Notify utility departments. Depending on the situation, the accounts may be closed or the account owner's name and contact details changed.
Transfer title of real and personal property. Whether it's an automobile, boat, motorcycle, RV, or plane, you'll need to inform your state/provincial department of motor vehicles of the change in ownership. At the same time, notify any related vehicular or personal property insurance companies of the change in status.
Close or modify credit card accounts. You will probably need to provide each of them with a certified copy of the death certificate.
Contact life insurance companies. Not everyone has life insurance but some people have more than one policy. No matter how many policies were in force, you will probably need to provide each of them with a certified copy of the death certificate for each claim.
Notify other policy holders of the change in Beneficiary status. If your loved one was a designated beneficiary on the insurance policies, investment, or banking accounts of other individuals, then you'll need to notify them of the death.
Arrange to close or modify bank accounts. Depending on your relationship to the deceased, you may be entitled to convert accounts into your name.
Change stocks and bonds into your name. Again, this depends on your relationship status to the deceased. You will need to provide a certified copy of the death certificate to all organizations involved.
Report the death to other agencies. Depending on the age or military status of the deceased, you may need to notify either the Social Security Administration or the Veterans Administration (or both). Other agencies of interest include membership organizations: professional or avocational associations, service clubs, gym and golf courses, retail stores – just to name a few.
Tend to their digital estate. If they were active on social media, you'll need to inform the specific networking sites of the change in status. You will need to close email accounts as well as any online banking portal or investment accounts. For more information on dealing with digital death, visit The Digital Beyond or Death and Digital Legacy.
Do You Have Any Questions?
We've had the privilege of serving many families over the years and during that time we've found that the time after the funeral is different for everyone involved. If we can be of assistance to you during this challenging time of change and adjustment, simply pick up the phone and call us at (440) 942-0700. We'll do our very best to support you.