How to Manage Tasks Often Overlooked After a Death
Today’s guest blog is from Empathy.com. With comprehensive support for navigating grief and settling the estate, Empathy is designed to help bereaved families find balance during one of life’s most challenging moments.
When a loved one passes away, there are 100 arrangements to be made, particularly if you were one of their primary caregivers. Between funeral planning, coordinating with relatives and friends and family both near and far, and so on, it is no wonder certain tasks often get forgotten.
Grief, of course, can also be a factor, as it can cause moments of forgetfulness or loss of focus—but even those who are not experiencing intense emotions can learn that certain important administrative steps have fallen through the cracks. That’s why it’s always a good idea to delegate jobs if you can, and to use any resources available, such as a checklist of necessary tasks.
Here are some of the steps that people sometimes overlook, as a reminder to get them taken care of:
Get (several) death certificates
While this is often something that a funeral director will arrange for you, many people are surprised at just how many death certificates they actually end up needing. Every bureaucratic office or organization you will have to deal with in the next few months will want an original copy.
Depending on the amount and complexity of your loved one’s dealings, you will want to get several of them right at the start. If they had one bank account and a few small memberships, just a few may be sufficient, but if there were extensive holdings or they had a lot of accounts, you may want to secure as many as 25-30. They cost money, but it is easiest to get them now – and the cost is generally able to be reimbursed from the estate.
Tell the credit bureaus
Identity theft is a huge problem, and sadly those who have recently passed are a major target. To protect your loved one’s name from this troubling crime, call one of the three credit reporting bureaus (Equifax, Experian, Transunion) as soon as possible and tell them about your loved one’s passing. They will put a freeze on their credit and give you instructions on how to close their credit accounts, generally by sending them a few pieces of information such as your loved one’s name and Social Security number, plus an original copy of the death certificate.
You only have to contact one of the three bureaus, as one will inform the other two. They will close the account and send you a copy of your loved one’s final credit report, which can be useful in identifying any accounts or debts you did not know about.
Close recurring accounts
Many people have many accounts that charge them monthly for various services. While canceling your loved one’s credit cards will generally stop the recurring charges, companies may continue to tally up their fees and send bills or collection notices or even call your loved one’s phone until you officially close the account and retroactively cancel all those charges.
This can be a tedious process, and it’s a good idea to get other relatives to help. In many cases the company or service provider will require a copy of the death certificate.
Keep in mind that not every recurring account should be canceled immediately. For example, if your loved one owned their home, any services required for the upkeep of the property may need to be retained. In addition, a mortgage or car loan may need to keep up with payments. These accounts should be changed to the name of someone who can pay them while the status of the estate is being determined.
Talk to the landlord
If your loved one rented their home or leased a room in a care facility, their lease likely did not end just because they passed away. Most landlords will be willing to work with the family to arrange for the lease to be broken, but they will likely charge rent until that conversation is had. To avoid paying unnecessarily for an empty apartment, approach the landlord as soon as possible, and make arrangements for belongings to be moved.
Get a tax extension
Depending on when your loved one passes, Tax Day may arrive before you are able to deal with their final taxes, whether financially or emotionally. It’s a good idea to defer this responsibility for 6 months, when things have generally calmed down considerably.
There are many other tasks to do in these first few weeks and months, but these are some of the big ones that families tend to forget. Getting them out of the way quickly can give you the time and energy to concentrate on the things that truly matter, like being there for one another and memorializing the person you all loved.