When a Loved One dies, the shock and anxiety can paralyze a family. Often things which should be done right away are ignored while the family is coping with its grief. However, preventive steps taken now can avoid regret later. Here are steps 1-10 on our Ten Things To Do In The First 24 Hours After Someone Dies series.
Step 1: Make the home secure.
After a Loved One dies, sometimes relatives, neighbors or even criminals can enter the home and remove valuable possessions or papers. It’s a good idea to stop people from coming and going in the house. It is wise to change the locks on the doors because there may be a number of keys floating around. Relatives, neighbors or friends may have a key and gain unwanted access to the home. Some families will also take video recordings of the home’s contents. In most cases, it’s not a good idea to have a family member move in who hasn’t lived there previously. If you want to have someone move in, that’s a good discussion item for the Family Council (Step 2).
Step 2: Conduct a Family Council Meeting.
If an executor or lead family member was chosen by the decedent, that person should call a family meeting. Now is the time that everyone should communicate and be reassured that everything will be handled properly and out in the open. All family members should be on the same page and, hopefully, trusting of what the family leader is planning to do for the benefit of everyone in the family.
Step 3: Gather the decedent’s important documents.
Your Loved One may have a file drawer of insurance documents, investment lists, a Will or other estate planning documents. Important papers can sometimes disappear. If there are death benefits or other things that need to be taken care of, it’s always better to get those things done sooner rather than later.
Step 4: Check for organ donor instructions.
Many Minnesotans are organ donors. However, the organs may not be transplantable if too much time passes between the death of the donor and the organ removal. In many cases this is 48 hours or less. If the decedent listed donation on his or her driver’s license or health care directive, prompt action is necessary.
Step 5: Contact the neighbors.
People in the neighborhood are often helpful when a neighbor dies. They can keep an eye out for suspicious activity as well. However, they may not be aware that your Loved One has died. Enlist their eyes, ears and assistance.
Step 6: Cancel credit cards.
In our internet society, credit card data can be stolen or misdirected in a nanosecond. When the credit card owner is deceased, this is a tempting prospect for credit card and identity thieves. Review the card information in the decedent’s wallet and mail and notify the credit card companies promptly of your Loved One’s death.
Step 7: Notify your Loved One’s bank.
The bank may not be aware of your Loved One’s passing unless you tell them. Automatic deposits and withdrawals may continue that may have to be undone later – at considerable inconvenience. Also crooks can sometimes target deceased persons’ bank accounts.
Step 8: Take care of the mail.
If a family member will be living there, then the decedent’s mail should be kept in one place for the executor’s review. If no one will be living there for the time being, the post office should be notified to hold or forward the mail so that it doesn’t pile up in the mailbox. That’s an open invitation to burglars or mischief makers.
Step 9: Contact present or past employers.
Often there will be death benefits or other things that will need to be addressed. Past or present employers should be informed of the death as soon as possible so that they can make necessary work arrangements and get the decedent’s benefit applications under way.
Step 10: Contact Social Security Office.
If the decedent was receiving social security benefits those should be stopped immediately. If the decedent’s benefits keep getting paid, this can be a headache for the executor to repay them later. What’s more, if there are death benefits payable to the decedent’s dependents, those should get started as soon as possible.
The contents of this article are for information only and are not to be interpreted as legal advice. For personal legal advice you should consult with an attorney who is experienced in probate law or estate planning.