What To Do When Someone Dies?
This question often comes up when a loved one dies. The following is a list for people to use but not all points will apply to everyone. I have tried to put them I order of importance, but every situation will be different so this should be used as a guide.
- If the death occurs at home and the person is not under the care of hospice, the coroner’s office needs to be contacted and/or the local police department may need to be contacted. The funeral home needs to be contacted by the family or coroner’s office about funeral arrangements.
Madison County Coroner’s Office Phone # (618) 692-7478
The funeral home is always willing to make these phone calls for the family if needed.
- If the death occurs at home while under hospice, hospice should be notified immediately so the hospice nurse can come to the house. The funeral home should be contacted by hospice/family about coming out to the house.
- If the death occurs at a hospital, the hospital and/or the family should contact the funeral home immediately so the funeral home can come to the hospital and bring their loved one to the funeral home.
Please Note: St. Louis Hospital’s tend to explain to the families that they will call the funeral home about their loved one passing away, but this is not always the case, I have seen several instances over the years where the family has contacted the funeral home to make arrangements and this is the first time the funeral home was notified that someone passed away.
- If the death occurs when the person is out of state and has been prearranged beforehand then please contact our funeral home first before any funeral home in that area is contacted. We in turn take care of contacting a funeral home in that area.
Things That Will Need To Be Done Shortly After A Loved One Dies.
- Notify family and friends. You may want to consider having family members contact others to save yourself some time on the phone during a stressful period.
- Look for instructions which the Decedent may have left regarding preferences for funeral and burial arrangements.
- Funeral Arrangements will need to be made with your funeral director. The funeral director will set up a time to go over several things with you in regards to funeral arrangements such as, visitation time, funeral time, obituary information, caskets, cremation, etc. (If you have already done a prearrangement, then your family will be ask to come in afterwards and confirm the information is current and set up dates and times).
Things That Will Need To Be Done Within The Next Few Days.
- The Social Security Administration and any other government agencies or benefit programs that may be making payments to the Decedent needs to be contacted. (Note: The payments for the month of death will not be made by the Social Security Administration and others.)
The Funeral Director is required to Complete Form SS721 and notify the Social Security Administration that someone has passed away.
- Review the Decedent’s Financial Affairs and look for any estate planning documents, such as Wills and Trusts, along with any other relevant documents, including:
* Funeral and Burial Plans* Safe Deposit Agreements and Key
* Nuptial Agreements* Life Insurance Policies
* Existence of Trust* Pension-retirement benefits
* Old Tax Returns* Prior Gift Tax Returns
* Marriage, Birth, Death Cert.’s * Computer Records Regarding Business
* Unpaid Bills or Personal Assets
* Bank Statements, checkbooks* Notes Receivable
* Titles to Motor Vehicles* Leases
* Securities and list of securities* Documentation of Business Ownership or Interest
* Health Insurance, make claims for the final illness
- If there is a Will, take the Will to the appropriate County or City office to have it accepted for probate.
- Administering the Will - If the Will is properly drawn, it will name a Personal Representative (also known as Executor or Executrix). The Personal Representative, who can be an individual, a group of individuals or one or more institutions, or a combination of the aforementioned, will be responsible for the administration of the Estate of the Decedent.
- If there is no Will and there are sufficient assets to probate, then the court will appoint an administrator and the assets of the Decedent will be distributed according to state law. This situation is referred to by some as “having the state write a Will for you.” All states lave a set of laws relating to intestate succession (transfer of property after dying without a Will), and the states decide who gets which assets if someone dies without a will.
- If you are the Personal Representative or Successor Trustee of a Trust, try to make a list of the assets owned by the Decedent or the Trust, in order that they can be administered and distributed according to the wishes of the Decedent.
- Open a bank account for the estate of the Decedent. This should be done early on and all receipts and disbursements should be recorded in that bank account, in order to account properly for the assets of the Decedent and the expenses of administration.
- Probate is a process similar to that of accounting. The Personal Representative is responsible for collecting the assets and reporting to the Court as to the amount of assets in the Estate of the Decedent. The Personal Representative then assembles the assets and, after paying debts, expenses and taxes, distributes the assets according to the wishes of the Decedent. If the Decedent left no Will, the process of administration is essentially the same, except that state law determines to whom the assets are distributed. If everything is done correctly, eventually, after the Personal Representative has accounted for and distributed the assets, the Personal Representative is discharged.
- Make an inventory of household good, personal belongings and the like, in order that they can be accounted for and properly distributed.
- Look for insurance policies and annuities which may continue for other family members and other assets. Contact the Insurer with respect to any current policies or annuities.
- Try to assemble the deeds of the decedent to see what real estate, if any, is owned by the Decedent. If real estate is owned in more thane one state, special proceedings, called “ancillary administrations,” may be needed in each state.
- Determine if the Decedent owned any securities, stocks, bonds, mutual funds, etc.
- Retirement Plans, IRA accounts and similar retirement benefits involve important choices which need to be made by certain beneficiaries, particularly in regard to IRA accounts under recent IRS regulations. If there are annuities, pension and profit sharing plans and interest of that type, they may provide for joint payment to a surviving spouse of others.
- If the Decedent controlled or was a principal person in a business, it may be necessary to check to see if there are Buy-Sell Agreements under which the interest of the Decedent would be purchased by the business entity or other business owners.
- If, after the appointment of a Personal Representative, a bank account or safe box is found, then the assets in the bank account or safe deposit box need to be distributed according to the wishes of the Decedent.
- If the decedent was indebted to anyone, then the creditor needs to be paid. If the creditors are not paid and they make a claim against the estate after all of the assets are distributed, the Personal Representative may be in trouble and held personally liable for the debt.
- As part of the probate process, all family members within a certain degree of kinship must be contacted, whether or not they receive assets from the Estate of the Decedent.
- In handling the affairs of a Decedent, do not be quick to make distributions to family members or friends of the Decedent. Important choices need to be made concerning such distributions and, of course, they need to be in compliance with the Will or other instructions left by the Decedent, not to mention any applicable tax laws.
- The income taxes of the Decedent for the year of death need to be filed, and any tax due must be paid. If there is a surviving spouse and a Decedent can file a joint return for the year of death.
- If there is a Trust, particularly a Revocable Living Trust, it will become irrevocable at he time of death, if not before. A separate tax return, Form 1041, “Fiduciary Income Tax Return,” needs to be filed for the Trust or the Estate of the Decedent f income is received by the Estate of a Trust.
- If there are minor children and the Will provides in the care of the guardian, then the guardian needs to be informed and the children need to be placed in the care of the guardian.