What To Do After Losing A Loved One

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Comforting Words And Practical Checklists

Making Decisions When Grieving

My 94-year-old dad passed away, and I discovered that no matter how prepared you are for someone’s passing, you are never fully prepared for the emotional upheaval. That was my experience.

For many years I have helped people cope with the loss of a loved one. I have consoled those in grief and counseled those bewildered by the many decisions that need to be made and the many things that need to be done after someone dies. In this Practical Checklist, I share a simple yet thorough list of these important things. 

Generally, it is not good to make important decisions when you are grieving. But often under the duress of loss, decisions must be made. It just cannot be avoided. Failure to make decisions only makes a sad situation worse.

What To Do After Losing A Loved One

Making a Difficult Situation Easier

My experience in helping others over the years helped me when my dad passed away. I did what needed to be done as smoothly and easily as could be expected. My sister told me that what my wife did in four days would have taken her six months to do.

Despite my experience with these situations, and despite having authored a book to help others cope with the loss of a loved one (What To Do After Losing A Loved One), I learned something else when I had to settle my dad’s estate. I learned the value of a task list. So I created a checklist of tasks and arranged the tasks in the order you might expect to do them.

Tackling Confusion With A Simple Checklist

When my wife and I sat down to settle my dad’s estate, I needed a beginning point. I copied the lists from my book, which I had already thoughtfully prepared. Then I personalized the list for my needs.

To simplify what I was doing, I needed a simple task list to tell me what to do. I did not need explanations and descriptions of the tasks or to be told why a task list is useful. I just needed to follow a task list.

For those of you in my situation, here is a task list of what to do when a loved one passes away. You will need to personalize it for your own situation. I think it will help you avoid overlooking things that are important to do.

Help For Those Grieving

I hope and pray this task list will make things easier for you during your time of loss. If you need more information and descriptions about what to do after the loss of a loved one, my book What To Do After Losing A Loved One will be helpful. The book is available at https://store.lifechangingscriptures.org and on Amazon. The book also includes a financial spreadsheet sample to help you organize the assets and income sources of the decedent. There is also a spreadsheet template for organizing your notes.

Also, at the end of the following checklist, I have included some thoughts about preparing for your own death for you to consider.  

A Final Checklist For Those Who Lose A Loved One

Take time and allow time for loved ones to say goodbye their own way.
Get rest. Grief can exhaust you.
Notify authorities and relatives. Call 911 if appropriate.
Notify the County Coroner. Ask for 6 copies of the death certificate.
Notify close relatives, pastor, and friends.
Notify Trustee(s).
Ask someone to drive you home or stay with you if needed.
Search for Final Instructions from the decedent.
Contact the funeral home director. The website at Parting.com allows you to compare different funeral companies anywhere in the country.
Contact Veterans Administration to arrange for burial and to determine VA financial benefits and compensations.
Find the decedent’s Social Security number and notify the Social Security office as soon as possible.
Find and submit funeral pre-arrangements documents (if available).
Decide location, day, and time for funeral. Funerals are usually three to five days after the death of the deceased. If no burial is planned, then the memorial service can be held whenever it is deemed appropriate.
Decide location, day, and time for viewing. This is usually the day before the funeral for friends to comfort family, to share memories, and to say goodbye to their friend. Provide a guest book, and display photographs and prized possessions and mementoes of hobbies and accomplishments. (2-4 or 7-9 are common times)
Notify family, friends, and employers.
Choose burial, embalming, cremation, plot/vault. Direct cremation is the least expensive.
Determine whether the decedent wanted to donate organs and body to a university or private organization.
Decide whether the casket will be open/closed/urn; wood, metal, cardboard, or Neptune Society contacted.
Choose clothing for the decedent’s body.
Choose jewelry and glasses (if appropriate) to be kept with the decedent or returned to you.
Choose a florist and floral arrangement for funeral/memorial.
Determine a charity you would recommend in lieu of sending flowers.
Choose a cemetery/church for burial site.
Choose a grave marker.
Choose a minister/speaker.
Choose pallbearers to carry the casket.
Choose music for viewing and service. Special songs, poems, readings, etc.
Choose pictures and/or videos to show during the service.
Choose and design the memorial pamphlet to hand out at funeral.
Write and submit an obituary to the newspaper with a recent photograph.
Write down biographical Information of the decedent for the funeral home and personal records.
-Full legal name
-Address, city/county, state/zip
-Social Security Number
-Decedent’s Birth Certificate and information
-Marriage Certificate
-A copy of Military Discharge Form DD214 (if decedent was a veteran) to secure veterans benefits and an American flag for the casket or family
-Discharge papers will list the names of wars, campaigns, membership in organizations, etc.
-Spouse’s full name
-Father’s full name
-Mother’s full maiden name
-Church membership
-Occupation/employment/retirement dates
-Survivors (full names & addresses)
-Sons and daughters
-Number of grandchildren
-Number of great grandchildren
-Parents, brothers, and sisters
-Favorite Scripture, quote, memory, poem, song
-Testimony of salvation
Determine how you will pay for the funeral.
-Veterans Administration. All military veterans & spouses are entitled to a free burial in a national cemetery and a grave marker.
-Look for funeral insurance.
-Medicare Advantage Plan helps to cover funeral expenses.
-Look for cash in the decedent’s wallet, house, and car.
-Look for credit cards.
-Obtain a personal loan to be paid back from the estate.
-Contact the county where the deceased lived to apply for assistance.
-Use gifts and help from family and friends.
Find and submit Last Will and Testament and any codicils to a lawyer.
Find revocable/irrevocable trust and submit a certificate of trust to financial institutions with a death certificate. Expect about 2 weeks for them to verify death and authority of new trustee.
Contact lawyer/accountant to manage probate and finances.
Ask someone to help you make decisions.
Open a joint checking account to conduct financial transactions on behalf of the decedent’s estate and reimburse after estate accounts are accessible.
Keep receipts for all estate related expenses and revenues
Create a financial report for the decedent’s estate: cash, personal property, bank, stock holding, retirement, and real estate. I provide a template in my book, What To Do After Losing A Loved One.
Contact the accountant to ask questions and to receive tax returns for last year and the current year.
Find bank and credit card statements to create a list of financial accounts and recurring expenses or deposits for the financial report.
Find computer/email/internet/web sites, and username/passwords/PINS.
Search through file cabinets and computer for subscriptions, contracts, accounts, debts, collections, obligations, and tax returns for last year and current year.
Submit to the decedent’s bank account(s) the death certificate and trust certificate.
Ask banks if there is a safety deposit box. You may need to find the key.
Notify credit card and subscription accounts of death for final billing. Pay off credit cards with estate money.
Work with the insurance agent and Social Security to ensure that necessary paperwork is filed for receipt of benefits.
Search for unclaimed properties.
Search county records for ownership of properties.
Watch the mail and email to identify subscriptions, accounts, debts, collections, and obligations.
Collect money from the Social Security Administration. Also, there is a one-time payment of $255 to be paid to the surviving spouse if he or she was living with the decedent.
Collect money from medical and health insurance companies and distribute it to the designated beneficiaries.
Collect money from insurance policies: term, whole life, pre-need, employee life insurance, and a funeral insurance policy, and distribute to the designated beneficiaries.
Collect insurance money from credit cards, airlines, etc., and distribute it to the designated beneficiaries.
Collect from a union and employer benefits (pension).
Collect from rental properties or clients if appropriate.
Call the local coroner’s office to learn about state and local government assistance.
Conduct an estate sale.
Cancel credit card(s), subscriptions, appointments, bank auto drafts, etc., if appropriate.
Request a final bill from contractor(s)/ service providers, or transfer into other names.
Pay for utilities: gas, electricity, water/sewer, phone, internet, TV, etc. Cancel if appropriate.
Pay real estate taxes, property taxes, fees, house, and auto insurance.
File income taxes. Talk to the decedent’s accountant or consider hiring one. The income taxes of the decedent for the year of death need to be filed, and any tax due must be paid. Form 1041, Fiduciary Income Tax Return, needs to be filed for the Trust or the Estate of the decedent if income is received by the Estate or a Trust.
Distribute money from estate as instructed by trust or court.
Transfer titles to properties such as the house and cars requires a processing period of about 40 days.
Redirect postal mail if necessary.
Organize personal effects of decedent into three categories. (If appropriate, read the trust to see how to distribute property and titles)
-What to keep?
-What to give to others?
-What to throw away?

Prepare For Your Own Death

You can help your loved ones by preparing for your own death. At the very least, you can write a letter of final instructions. 

  • List the locations and contact information for accounts you have. 
  • List contact information for insurance policies. 
  • Describe how to access your retirement accounts and more.

By writing down what your loved ones should know and how to find those things, you will be offering a great deal of help in a time of great need.

If you think compiling this information is too hard to do, how hard do you think it will be for others who must hunt and discover for themselves what you have done?

Prepare To Meet God

The most important thing to do when preparing for your death is to prepare to meet God.  John 3:16 says,

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”

Are you wondering what to believe?

God Is Righteous

God is righteous, perfect, and sinless. Therefore, there is no sin in heaven. Not even the smallest of all sins is allowed into heaven. It is perfect in every way. Anything less than perfection would pollute heaven.

Humanity Is Unrighteous

None of us is good enough, by God’s standard of perfection, to go to heaven. The Bible declares in Romans 3:10,

“There is none righteous, no, not one.”

Likewise, Romans 3:23 says,

“For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.”

And Isaiah 64:6 says,

“All our righteousnesses are as filthy rags.”

In other words, no matter how many good works you engage in, all your efforts to be good enough and to make amends for your sins are in vain. You are unrighteous. Your inward nature is unrighteous. This is what you are.

Questions like “Am I good enough?” or “Am I too sinful?” are irrelevant. You can never be good enough or sincere enough to be saved. Here is why. Ultimately, the problem is what you are, not what you do

The root of your sin problem is your nature of sin. One sin in your life is evidence that your inner being, your nature, is sinful and unrighteous. You can’t clean your nature to make it unsinful. You can’t be good enough to change your sinful nature. It is what you are.

You Need God To Save You

A miracle is the only thing that can change what you are. Only God can do miracles. It is beyond your power and ability to change your sinful, unrighteous nature; therefore, it is impossible to save yourself. 

This is the reason God must be your Savior. Second Corinthians 5:21 says of the miraculous change you need,

“We might be made the righteousness of God in him.”

The miracle we need of God is for Him to change our inward nature from being unrighteous to being righteous.

And for this reason, salvation is a gift from God. It is not a reward for doing good. Ephesians 2:8-9 says,

“For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast.”

In other words, no amount of good works and sincere efforts on your part can save you. Salvation must come by the grace of God without the inclusion of your imperfect works. 

Romans 3:28 declares, 

The miraculous change of your inward sinful, unrighteous nature makes salvation from sin possible. God promises it will be so to anyone and everyone who believes in Jesus Christ as their Lord God and Savior and who will accept His invitation.

“Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law.”

Jesus Offers The Miracle You Need

Jesus’ invitation is for you. Jesus said in Matthew 11:28,

“Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”

Jesus alone is qualified to give rest and peace to the guilty soul because He is the only one who died for you. He is the only one who paid for your sins.

He will save you when you accept His invitation without attempting to taint His work with your own. God does not want arrogance and vanity in your attempts to please Him. He wants simple, humble dependence on Him, acknowledging that you desperately need Him. John 3:16 says,

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”

This is the way you get to heaven. Will you be there?

Peace Be With You

I hope and pray this article and checklist has been beneficial to you and has helped to ease your stress during your time of grief and loss.

If this checklist or my book is helpful to you, please share your experience. Your kind feedback will help comfort others who are grieving.

Help Others Who Are Hurting

Share this article with others who are suffering from the loss of a loved one.

Learn more about what to do after losing a loved one by getting a copy of my ebook on Amazon.

You can also get a copy of What To Do After Losing A Loved One as a 41-page, colorful pdf eBook at store.lifechangingscriptures.org.

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