When a parent dies, it can feel like a foundational structure in your life has suddenly disappeared. In addition, the overwhelming emotional stress can make it challenging to think about what needs to happen next. However, armed with a checklist, you can gradually and steadily make progress. Learn what to do when a parent dies.

Make sure to let any medical personnel know if your parent is an organ donor. One person can save up to 8 people with organ donation. Time is of the essence with this process, though, so make sure this is clear early on. 

Plan Your Last Respects

You’ll need to gather your closest family together to meet with a funeral director and choose how to lay your parent to rest. There are many options in this day and age, including green burial, cremation, and traditional burial. You may also choose from wakes, funerals, celebrations of life, and memorial services. Religious and cultural traditions may also be a part of your plans.

Meeting with a funeral director and your close family can help you reach a consensus of what to do based on your parent’s wishes and your budget. 

Secure the Household

If your parent lived alone, you or other siblings may be responsible for making sure the home and any pets are cared for properly until the probate court declares the executor or administrator of the estate. 

Ensure that the home is in good order, secure any valuables, check the mail for any urgent items, arrange for pets to be cared for, and look for their last will and testament. 

Announcement of Death

Once you have funeral plans in place and the household secured, you’ll need to let everyone in your parent’s social circle know about the death. You can make others aware of what has happened by social media and emails, or you can choose to make phone calls to those instrumental in a parent’s life. Ask others to share the news so that everyone knows about the death. 

Give the funeral details to a good friend or relative with writing skills who can pen an obituary. Or write an obituary yourself and have someone edit your writing. The funeral home you choose will also publish the obituary as part of their services. You may then post a link to the obituary on your own social media as well as that of your deceased parent. 

To post on your parent’s accounts, you’ll need to memorialize the accounts and make yourself the manager. Each social media platform has different ways to memorialize an account. Contact customer service or look through the site to find out how to memorialize each account your parent owned.

Last Will and Testament

The next item of business is to find your parent’s will. The will names the executor of the estate. The executor is responsible for doing everything necessary to inventory the belongings and pay bills and taxes. 

The executor also divides the property up between the heirs. If there is no will or if the will does not name an executor, the probate court will decide who should administer the estate. Hiring a probate attorney can help this process go more smoothly. If the estate is large and there are many heirs to consider, an attorney is a necessity.

Immediate Actions

There are some things you can do now to protect your parent’s estate from fraud or greedy and dishonest relatives. After securing their home and belongings, check their mail and wallet to find clues about services and benefits.

For some of these, you may need your copy of the death certificate. Occasionally, a company may require the official executor to handle closing an account. However, you still can accomplish quite a bit and save the estate’s money for the heirs. 

To prevent identity theft, send copies of the death certificate to the three significant firms: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion.

Take a look at these possibilities from AARP to save money and time later:

  • The Social Security Administration: If the deceased received Social Security benefits, contact the local SSA to stop the checks. Some family members may be eligible for death benefits from Social Security. SSA will inform Medicaid of the death. 
  • Life insurance companies: You’ll need a death certificate and policy numbers to make claims on any policies the deceased had.
  • Banks, financial institutions: If your loved one left a list of accounts and online passwords, it is easy to close accounts. Without account names and passwords, you’ll need a copy of the death certificate. If you are the beneficiary listed on a retirement account, you may receive the monies without probate court. Often these kinds of accounts are payable on death to the named heirs. Provide a copy of the death certificate and your identity as a beneficiary to receive these assets.
  • Cancel driver’s license: You’ll need a copy of the death certificate to remove your parent’s name from the Department of Motor Vehicle’s records. This action can prevent identity theft. 
  • Close credit card accounts: Call customer service and have a copy of the death certificate ready to send. Keep records of closed accounts for the executor or administrator of the estate.
  • Terminate insurance policies: End insurance coverage for the deceased on home, auto, and health insurance policies, and ask for the return of any unused premium.

Next Steps

The death of a parent is not something anyone wants to face. This loss often brings a heavy heart and a clouded mind. It is hard to have a clear head when your world is not the same. 

However, with some help from a funeral director, friends, family, and even grief counselors if needed, you will find your way. So give yourself plenty of rest and seek out the help you need.

We Can Help

At Renaissance, we offer grief counseling and everything you need to plan a beautiful and inspiring service to remember your parent’s life well. We know how difficult and exhausted you may feel. Our caring and trained staff want to come alongside as a trusted partner. Whether you want to plan something traditional or something unique to only your parent, our resources are at your disposal. In addition to conventional burial, we also have an on-site cremation center and participate in green burials. Contact us today to find out how we can help you.