Losing a parent is an overwhelming experience, and navigating the aftermath can feel like an impossible task. We understand how important it is to take things step-by-step, ensuring nothing falls through the cracks. That’s why we’ve created this “Essential Checklist After Death of Parent” blog to guide you through the process.

From obtaining the death certificate and notifying the Social Security Administration to managing life insurance policies and financial accounts, we’ll cover everything you need to know. You’ll learn how to contact life insurance companies, handle the deceased’s legal affairs, and even prevent identity theft by notifying the major credit bureaus.

We aim to make this difficult time a bit easier by helping you focus on what to do, one task at a time. Together, we’ll ensure the careful and precise handling of your parents’ affairs.

Essential Steps After the Death of a Parent

Immediate Arrangements

When a family member dies, the first step is to contact a funeral home. If your parent had a preplan (planned and paid for funeral services in advance), ensure you activate that plan to cover costs.

The funeral director will guide you through the planning process and handle essentials for you, such as:

  • Process and obtain the death certificate for you. You’ll need multiple certified copies of the death certificate from the vital statistics office. Death certificates are needed for various purposes, such as accessing financial accounts and notifying institutions. It is imperative for the Next of Kin (NOK) to get death certificates because, without them, nothing can be done to financially administer the estate. Insurance companies require them for a claim to be made. A death certificate is required for every bank and investment account held by the deceased in their name or jointly with anyone. They are inexpensive, so it can save time to order a few extra. Often things come up some 5 or 10 years later, which require a Certified copy.
  • Coordinate with medical professionals to confirm the death occurred and provide the necessary documentation. 
  • Inform the Social Security Administration about the death to stop any benefits the deceased person was receiving.

Planning the Funeral Service

Next, focus on planning the funeral or memorial service. Decide on the type of service that best honors your parent’s wishes and meets the needs of the family.

This might include a traditional funeral, a memorial service, or a celebration of life. Consider the venue, which could be the funeral home, a place of worship, or another meaningful location.

Work with the funeral director to arrange all the details, including the order of service, music, readings, and speakers. You’ll also likely want to write an obituary for the funeral home webpage. If you’re not a writer, this is where family members can help you out.

Handling Burial or Cremation

Based on your parents’ preferences and any pre-arranged plans, choose between burial, green burial, cremation, or aquamation. If burial is chosen, select a cemetery and plot and arrange for a grave marker.

If cremation is preferred, decide on the final resting place for the ashes, which could be a columbarium, burial, or scattering at a meaningful location. The funeral home can help with these arrangements and ensure that everything is handled with dignity and respect.

If burial is preferred, it’s crucial to arrange for this before making arrangements with the funeral director. The funeral home can’t finalize the death certificate or mae arrangements without cemetery info. 

Coordinating with Religious or Fraternal Groups

If your parent was a member of a fraternal or religious group, contact them to see if they wish to participate in the service. These groups often provide additional support and can add meaningful elements to the funeral or memorial service.

Ask other family members if you aren’t sure about their involvement in groups.

Notifying Family and Friends

Create a list of family members and friends to notify about the death and the funeral arrangements.

You can do this through phone calls, emails, or social media. Include information about the service, such as the date, time, and location, and any special requests or instructions.

Next Steps After Death of Parent

Immediate Steps to Take

When a family member dies, the immediate aftermath can be overwhelming. After the funeral arrangements, it’s crucial to address the legal and financial aspects.

Notify Key Institutions

You’ll need to notify several institutions to secure the deceased’s legal affairs and prevent identity theft.

  • Contact the life insurance companies to file insurance claims. Inform financial institutions about the death to manage bank and brokerage accounts.
  • Inform the post office to forward mail, ensuring you receive all relevant communications.
  • Inform the three major credit bureaus to prevent identity theft and update credit accounts.
  • You may also need to notify the nursing home if your parent was a resident there.

Managing Financial Accounts

Next, you’ll need to handle the deceased’s accounts, including:

  • Bank accounts
  • Credit card companies
  • Joint accounts

Someone will need to take the will to be probated at the court where your parent lived. There are at least two ways to avoid the probate court process:

  • North Carolina small estate affidavit process (for individual estates worth less than $20,000 or for couples with less than $30,000)
  • All assets belonging to your parent are in a trust (or they poured into a trust at the time of death.)  If your parent had a trust, their trustee will handle all asset distribution and payment of creditors.

If there is no small estate affidavit and their bank account and other assets are not in a trust, the court will appoint a personal representative and go through the probate process.

If your parent named you as executor in their will, the court will likely appoint you as the personal representative. This appointment means you’ll work with the court to settle the estate. 

The probate process is essential for distributing personal property and ensuring final bills are paid.

  • Once you have authority, close the deceased user’s accounts or transfer ownership as needed.
  • Check for possible death benefits from the deceased’s employer, government agencies, or fraternal or religious groups.
  • Address any remaining assets and distribute them according to the will or through probate court.

Consult an estate administration or probate attorney to understand the tax consequences and handle the family member’s tax returns.

Cancel Services and Subscriptions

  • It’s crucial to cancel services and subscriptions in the deceased person’s name. This includes health insurance, car insurance, and any other recurring services.
  • Notify the local department of motor vehicles to update or cancel vehicle registrations.
  • Delete or memorialize social media accounts to manage the deceased person’s profile respectfully.

Addressing Personal and Legal Details

Ensure all personal and legal details are in order. Check for a safe deposit box that might hold important documents or valuable items. 

Finally, make sure the voter registration rolls are updated automatically through the vital statistics office.

Finalizing Affairs

Once all immediate and pressing matters are handled, focus on finalizing the deceased’s affairs. This includes securing any remaining death benefits and ensuring all credit accounts are notified to prevent potential fraud.

Ensure all final bills are paid. If your parent had a safe deposit box or a well-funded investment account, secure these assets and transfer ownership as necessary.

By following this checklist after the death of a parent, you can ensure that all arrangements are handled with care and respect, providing peace of mind during a difficult time.

We Can Help

At Renaissance Funeral Home and Crematory, we understand the challenges you face after the loss of a loved one. We are here to support you every step of the way, providing compassionate guidance and professional services. Our experienced team will help you obtain the necessary death certificates and coordinate with medical professionals to ensure all documentation is in order.

We offer a range of services to honor your parent’s life, whether you choose a traditional funeral, memorial service, or celebration of life. Our funeral directors work closely with you to plan everything, from the venue and order of service to the selection of music and readings. If your parent had specific wishes or pre-arranged plans, we will ensure these are respected and carried out.

We can assist with both burial and cremation arrangements, providing options for final resting places that suit your family’s needs and preferences. Our team handles all coordination with cemeteries, columbariums, or other meaningful locations for scattering ashes.

Our goal is to ease the burden on your family during this difficult time, ensuring that we take care of every detail with compassion and professionalism. At Renaissance Funeral Home and Crematory, we honor your loved one’s legacy and provide you with the support you need.