Dealing with Finances after Death

Estate SettlementWhen I talk with people who will soon face the death of a loved one, a major concern is of being overwhelmed. Along with the inevitable grief, the person who is most directly impacted by the loss is often the same person dealing with finances after death. Many of the questions, especially after the funeral or memorial service arrangements, are about financial matters.

Planning ahead is the key. Yes, make a list. You’ll be glad you did when the “what to do” questions come at you in waves. The following is not a comprehensive list, but does include some important financial tasks that may need attention.

  • Visit with your arrangement counselor to discover how many you may need. You can get additional copies later from Vital Records or at your city hall.
  • If you are the beneficiary of your loved one’s Social Security benefits (typically a spouse or dependent child), contact your local Social Security office.
  • Contact the life insurance company. You will need to provide the policy number and a certified copy of the death certificate and fill out a claim form.
  • Contact the health insurance company for the deceased, especially if other family members are covered through the policy.
  • If the deceased was working, contact the employer for information on pension plans, credit unions and any death benefits. You will need a certified copy of the death certificate for each claim.
  • Return credit cards of the deceased or notify the credit card company if you, as the survivor, want to retain use of the card. The company will likely want a certified copy of the death certificate, as well.
  • Arrange to change any joint bank accounts and investments into your name. Your stockbroker and Customer Service at the bank should be able to guide you. If you share an account with your loved one, consider waiting until you have a certified copy of the death certificate before trying to get your loved one removed from the account. My personal experience when my mother passed, we attempted to get her jewelry out of the safety deposit box. When my father told the bank manager, he would not let us continue until we provided a death certificate. We were unable to access the joint safety deposit box, and the account was frozen for 2 weeks until we provided a certified copy of the death certificate. Note: It is illegal to forge a deceased name – this applies ONLY if your name is also on the account.
  • Make sure important bills, such as mortgage payments and utility services, continue to be paid.

If you choose to accept the help of a relative or close friend with these issues, make sure it’s someone you can trust with your financial matters. Also, keep in mind that if you are the direct beneficiary or joint policy holder, the agent or financial representative may need to talk to you directly instead of through someone else.

Best Cremation Care is not a legal or tax adviser. We recommend consulting with professionals in these areas before making legal or financial-related decisions.

Best Cremation Care provides affordable cremation services throughout the Bay Area (San Francisco, Oakland / Alameda, and San Jose / Santa Clara) and Southern California (Los Angeles, Long Beach, Orange County, Riverside County, San Bernardino County, andSan Diego County). It is licensed funeral establishment and has an A+rating from the Better Business Bureau.


About David Finch

David Finch is a Licensed Funeral Director, Embalmer, Crematory Manager and Funeral Insurance Consultant in the State of California with 30 years experience. Other professional accomplishments include Founding the Professional Fellowship of Hospice Chaplains, managing a public cemetery, volunteering as a Sheriff's Chaplain, Board Member of the Orange Belt Funeral Director's Association, consulting with the State of California as Subject Matter Expert for the Department of Consumer Affairs Licensing Exam, and has the privilege of overseeing the tutelage of many great apprentice embalmers. David has overseen the Southern California operations of Best Cremation Care since January of 2015 and has enjoyed seeing the company grow and client families receive compassion and a great value during what can be a difficult time in their lives.

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