What Comes Next
When a loved one passes, it can be hard to know what to do next. Feelings may be raw, emotions may be high. You may be getting recommendations from family and friends, reading online forums, or just wondering where to start.
Here at Tulip, we’ve been there for thousands of families as they navigate end of life arrangements, so we’re familiar with what families go through, as well as what’s most helpful to focus on. Use this Tulip Guide as a checklist for what happens next. It’s also important to remember that this can be a lot to process. Having a team can be essential – enlist family members and friends to be your partners (and remember that Tulip’s Family Care team is here for you as well).
First up: Financials
We recommend starting with your loved one’s financial accounts. Starting with these helps ensure that you don’t miss any important recurring payments, and to avoid potential fees. Here’s what to address for your loved one’s financials:
- Consult with a probate attorney. To transfer ownership of your loved one’s property, you will likely need to go to probate court. If your loved one had a will, it probably named an executor who is in charge of carrying out final wishes and distributing property. If not, the state appoints an executor. If you are named executor, you will need to obtain a letter of testamentary to prove you have the right to handle the estate’s affairs.
- File final tax return. There is one final tax filing necessary after someone passes away. We recommend that you contact a tax professional to make sure this is completed properly.
- Notify credit bureaus. Alert Equifax, Experian, and Transunion that your loved one has passed. This will prevent any future lines of credit from being opened in their name. We recommend checking your loved one’s credit history 2-3 months after they pass to ensure that no additional lines of credit have been opened since their passing.
- Notify financial institutions and close bank accounts. Once you receive your loved one’s death certificates and letters of testamentary, you should contact:
- Banks and investment companies, including joint accounts. Accounts will likely be frozen, so plan accordingly.
- Credit cards, mortgages, or other loan providers. Any debts will have to be paid off by the estate and, if there is a surviving spouse, the responsibility may transfer to the spouse. Some credit card companies may waive fees, so be sure to ask.
- Insurance companies, both to claim life insurance benefits and to cancel other insurance policies (health insurance, Medicare etc).
- Pension providers to determine survivor benefits.
For all financial items on this checklist, we recommend keeping a record of when you reached out to the company, and when the accounts were closed.
Next: Account Maintenance
When your loved one passes, you’ll want to notify companies and agencies that they had accounts with, both digital and physical. Here’s where to start:
- Cancel passport and driver’s license. Cancelling your loved one’s identification documents helps protect against voter fraud and other identity theft problems. Contact your state’s Department of Motor Vehicles for more instructions (you will need a copy of your loved one’s death certificate).
- Set up mail and email forwarding. Stop your loved one’s mail by forwarding any future mail to a surviving family member or friend. This is also a great way to uncover unknown accounts that your loved one may have had. Contact your local Post Office for instructions on how to do this.
- Cancel memberships and subscriptions. Cancel gym memberships, social clubs and associations, and print and digital subscriptions to prevent future charges.
- Address online accounts. While it’s not mandatory that accounts are closed out, it’s important to cancel any accounts that charge a monthly or annual fee.
- Email. We do recommend closing all email accounts to avoid fraud or identity theft (each email service has a different policy, so we recommend checking directly with them – you may be asked to provide a copy of your loved one’s driver’s license, death certificate, or other documents).
- Social Media. You can also choose to memorialize social media accounts so friends and family can share memories of your loved one.
Understanding where all of your loved one’s accounts are can take some time, and some digging. Remember to be patient with yourself – it’s normal for this to take a bit longer to complete.
Finally: Addressing the personal
This section may be the hardest, emotionally. Enlisting your family and friends in tackling this section can be helpful. Many families find that going through a loved one’s belongings can be a time of personal reflection and celebration of a life well lived.
- Clean out your loved one’s house or room. Keep or distribute mementos or family heirlooms, and consider donation options as well (medications or medical equipment that is no longer needed can be donated to help people in need).
- Remember items in storage, or at the dry cleaners. Many people have additional personal items in storage units, dry cleaners, or other locations outside of the home. Make sure to address these when sorting through your loved one’s belongings.
It’s OK to feel sad or overwhelmed by all of this. Just remember to be patient with yourself and that you have a team who can help you, whether that’s friends, family, or the Tulip Family Care team.