After Death Checklist

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After Death Checklist

If your loved one has just died, here is a list of things to do:


Within first 24 hours:

1. Determine whether any of decedent’s property needs to be safeguarded, such as: valuable assets, motor vehicle, and vacant home or vacant rental house. Ask: who has keys to vehicles and properties?

2. Ensure that cremation or funeral arrangements have been made. The funeral home will order Certificates of Death from the proper state bureau or department.

3. If the obituary contains the decedent’s address, or it is in the phone book and depending on where home is located, consider hiring security or off-duty police officer to watch the decedent’s house while the family is at the funeral.

4. Do not to list the day and month of birth in the obituary, due to a new form of identity theft.

Within two weeks:

5. Locate the decedent’s Letter of Instruction, or other final wishes.

6. Locate the original Will/Declaration of Trust/Trust Agreement and read it.

7. Locate important records: account statements, titles, deeds and life insurance policies.

8. Make appointment with an estate attorney to discuss the property in the estate, estate taxes, and obtain answers to your questions.

9. Contact U.S. Post Office to make changes in delivery of mail to the Personal Representative or Trustee.

10. After receiving death certificates, send photocopies to 3 credit-reporting bureaus (Equifax, Experian & TransUnion) to prevent future identity theft.

11. The state motor vehicle department should be asked to cancel the decedent’s driver’s license and refuse any requests for duplicates. Send a photocopy of the death certificate.

12. Order at least one death certificate for each account or major asset owned by the deceased, or at least seven death certificates from funeral home.

13. Notify life insurance companies and annuity companies of the death and request claim forms.
14. Determine if a mortgage life insurance policy exists; notify mortgage holder and mortgage insurance company of death.

15. Determine if any bills are past due or must be paid immediately. Identify a source of the decedent’s funds for payment.

16. Contact any creditors who are demanding immediate payment and notify of death to make proper arrangements for handling the account.

17. Notify credit card companies of death.

18. Cancel all credit cards on which the decedent was the only signer.

19. All charge accounts should be cancelled as soon as possible after death.

20. Obtain bill for last illness from hospital doctors, labs and nursing homes.

21. Begin to complete an inventory of the estate, list of all assets and debts.


Within one month:
22. If the funeral home hasn’t done so, notify Social Security of the death, PLUS any other organization paying a pension, retirement or an annuity payment. If direct deposits have been made, they may reverse that month’s deposit and retrieve the money from the account.

23. Gather and organize financial documents-including assets jointly owned:

a. Bank & money market accounts

b. Mutual funds

c. Brokerage accounts

d. Certificates of Deposit

e. Bond (including U.S. Savings Bonds) and Stock Certificates

f. All promissory notes where decedent was entitled to receive payment.

g. Titles to Motor Vehicles, Trailers and/or Mobile Homes; obtain a copy of homeowners/renters insurance (Make sure you do not cancel coverage, but keep in force all insurance until assets are sold or transferred to the beneficiaries. Some companies will not insure a vacant home beyond the current policy date.)

h. Deeds to real property

i. Any appraisals of jewelry or other valuable personal property owned by decedent.

24. Complete an inventory of the contents of any safe deposit box.

25. Obtain the account balance on mortgages, loans, checking and savings accounts as of the date of death.

26. Bring original Will, Trust, deeds and financial documents showing recent balance and account number, death certificates, and the inventory of safe deposit box to meeting with the estate attorney. Many trusts require allocation of assets among subtrusts which is accounting and legal work. Due to Federal Estate Tax uncertainty at time of death and depending total assets, you may have to file a DISCLAIMER to minimize taxes. Seek legal counsel for advice.

27. Notify a CPA, tax preparer, Enrolled Agent, accountant or bookkeeper of the death and the need for an inventory of estate assets. A final income tax return may be needed.

Within two to six months:

28. If automobiles are held in joint tenancy, change motor vehicle titles to reflect ownership only by the surviving joint tenant.

29. If stocks or bonds are held in joint tenancy, contact stockbroker to change records to reflect ownership by the surviving joint tenant.

30. If bank or financial accounts are in joint tenancy, leave the decedent’s name on the account for at least 90 days to deposit final payments to the decedent which may be received, or to provide payment for outstanding checks which may be presented for payment after death.

31. Once the Probate Court sends Letters of Testamentary, free credit reports can be obtained from each credit bureau at to verify there has been no post-death activity, as a check for identity theft.

32. Do not pay any bills for charges that appear to have been incurred as a result of identity theft. Consult with the creditor/company or an attorney.

33. In the event of identity theft, you can minimize damage by calling the police and other parties; credit card companies, bank, and the three major credit bureaus (Experian 888 397-3742, Equifax 800 685-1111, and Trans Union 800 680-7289) and notify them of the occurrence.

This is general information and is not intended to replace the advice of an attorney. Your specific situation may differ. Please contact us at 602-443-4888 if you have any questions. No attorney-client relationship is established until you have signed a written fee agreement with Magellan Law, PLC.

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