When someone you care about passes away, there’s a heaviness of emotion that’s often hard to process. The instinct is to solely focus on the emotion, however if you are responsible for the deceased person’s estate or other personal issues, you can easily feel overwhelmed. There are several legal and financial tasks that need to occur when an individual passes away. Below is a list of important actions to take and organizations to notify of the death:

Multiple Copies of Death Certificates. It is important to get multiple originals and/or copies of the death certificate, since all or a majority of actions that are necessary require you to provide an original or certified copy. These can be ordered from the vital statistics office in the state where the death occurred, from the local records office or city hall. Many funeral directors are able to assist with procuring multiple certificates.

Find a Probate Attorney. If an attorney has not already been identified in the will or trust documents, or in other documentation, then the executor should choose the attorney. Recommendations from family or friends might be the best approach for finding an attorney, but an online search can also be effective. If there is a will, the executor named in it and the attorney will have the document admitted into probate court. If there isn't a will, the probate court judge will name an administrator in place of an executor. The probate process starts with an inventory of all assets (personal property, bank accounts, house, car, brokerage account, personal property, furniture, jewelry, etc.), which will need to be filed in the probate court.

Tax Preparer. A tax return will need to be prepared and filed for the deceased as an individual, as well as a return for an estate. Keep monthly bank statements on all individual and joint accounts that show the account balance on the day of death.

Secure Property. If no one is living in the deceased residence then is very important to securely lock up the person's home and vehicle. Please keep in mind whether: the car parked in a secure and legal area? Will the home be vacant? If so, you may want to notify the police (dial a non-emergency number), landlord or property manager.

Caring For Pets. Be sure that all pets are cared for until a permanent arrangement is made. Local animal shelters can provide assistance.

Social Security Office. It is important to notify Social Security of the death, which can be done by contacting your local office or by calling 1-800-772-1213. In some instances the funeral director will contact Social Security on your behalf, make sure to mention this to the funeral director. If benefits were being received by the deceased then notification is necessary. When speaking with the Social Security office inquire, if applicable, the surviving spouse’s or dependent(s)’ eligibility for a one-time survivor payment or increased personal benefits.

Medicare. If your loved one received Medicare, Social Security will inform the program of the death. If the deceased had been enrolled in Medicare Prescription Drug Coverage (Part D), Medicare Advantage plan or had a Medigap policy, contact these plans at the phone numbers provided on each plan membership card to cancel the insurance.

Employment Benefits. It is always necessary to contact the employer or former employer of the deceased to gain information about a pension plan, credit unions and/or union death benefits. In order to claim any benefits a death certificate is required for each claim.

Health Insurance. Soon after the passing, you should stop health insurance coverage. This can be done by notifying the health insurance company directly or the deceased's employer. Make sure to end coverage for the deceased, but continue coverage for any dependents if needed.

Life Insurance. If your loved one had life insurance, appropriate claim forms will need to be filed. You will need to provide the policy numbers and a death certificate. If the deceased was listed as a beneficiary on a policy, arrange to have the name removed.

Other Insurance Policies. Contact the providers to terminate. That could include homeowner's, automobiles and so forth. Claim forms will require a copy of the death certificate.

List of Important Bills. Share the list of important bills, mortgages, and loans with the executor or estate administrator so that bills can be paid promptly.

Financial Advisers, Stockbrokers, Bankers. Contact any financial advisors to assist with determining the beneficiaries listed on all financial accounts. Depending on the type of asset, the beneficiary may get access to the account or benefit by simply filling out appropriate forms and providing a copy of the death certificate. If any complications arise, then the executor should be called to aid in a smooth transition.

Mortgage Companies and Banks. If your loved one left a list of accounts, including online passwords, would definitely assist with this process. Otherwise, locate bank statements (in the mail) and take a death certificate to those banks for assistance. At the bank, make sure to change ownership of joint bank accounts and see if there is a safe deposit box. If the bank is not able to supply a password or key for the safe deposit box, then you would need to contact the executor and a court order may be necessary to open and inventory. Most probate courts have administrative rules about steps to access the box of any decedent.

Credit Card Accounts. It is necessary to close all credit card accounts that are held in your loved one’s name. This can be done by calling the customer service phone number on the credit card, monthly statement or issuer's website. Let the agent know that you would like to close the account of a deceased relative. Upon request, submit a copy of the death certificate by fax or email. If that's not possible, send the document by registered mail with return receipt requested. Once the company receives the certificate, it will close the account as of the date of death. Make sure to request that the agent waive interest or fees accrued after the date of death. Keep records of the accounts you close and notify the executor of the estate about outstanding debts.

Credit Reporting Agencies. Identity theft can be serious and difficult to contest and reverse, this is why it is important to notify the three major firms (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion) as soon as possible so the account can be frozen. Copies of the death certificate will need to be provided. Make sure to check the deceased's credit history approximately 4-6 weeks after to ensure no fraudulent accounts have been opened.

Driver's License. Contact the department of motor vehicles in the state in which the driver’s license is issued. You can receive the exact instructions from the department and a death certificate is generally required. Clearing the driver's license record will remove the deceased's name from the records of the department of motor vehicles and help prevent identity theft.

Email, Social Media & Website Accounts. The closing of email, social media, and website accounts is a good idea to avoid fraud or identity theft. The procedures for each website will vary slightly.

Organization, Sports Clubs, & Gym Memberships. Many organizations charge monthly or annual membership fees, so it is important to contact all of the deceased form organizations in order for them to stop the billing process. Further, some organizations, fraternities, sororities, and other community groups may want to provide condolences to the family.

Post Office. If there is no one leaving at the deceased residence, then it is important to notify the post office to forward mail to a new address. This will prevent accumulating mail from attracting attention. It can also inform you about subscriptions, creditors and other accounts that need to be canceled.

Election Board. Notify the state election board of the passing of your loved one.

For a checklist of essential documents please visit: Important Legal & Financial Documents >>.

The information provided in this article does not constitute legal or financial advice. For legal and financial advice and assistance, eCondolence recommends consulting a trained professional.