A guide to the paperwork and documents that are required when a loved one dies.
Losing a loved one is an emotionally challenging time, further complicated by the many decisions that must be made immediately following the death. On average, there are 75+ decisions that must be made within 36 hours of a loved ones’ passing. This includes multiple forms that must be completed and documents that must be gathered, which raises the question, “What paperwork do I need when a loved one dies?”
Whether you are the child, spouse, or executor of the estate for the decedent, this article will guide you through what documents you will need and why to help make the process a little less stressful.
6 Important Documents to Be Aware Of When a Loved One Passes
The following six documents should be furnished by the funeral home you’ve selected to care for your loved one. Being familiar with these documents and what each entails will help make the process as seamless as possible.
- General Price List — Every funeral home is required by the Federal Trade Commission Funeral Rule to present you with an updated General Price List that lists all of the goods and services offered by the funeral home and their corresponding prices.
- Vital Statistics Form — While this is not an official document that you will keep, the document is used to gather all of the information relevant to filing for a Certified Copy of the Death Certificate. It is important to review this document for accuracy and ensure that the information, dates, and spelling are correct. The information here will be used to create the Death Certificate.
- Certified Copy of the Death Certificate — This document can be critical for settling the affairs of your loved one. Oftentimes insurance companies, banks, and other entities may require a copy of the Death Certificate to pay out insurance or to close accounts.
- Cremation Authorization — This document is usually specific to the funeral home or crematory but has very specific requirements determined by each state. The purpose of this document is to make sure you clearly understand and authorize the cremation services that are being performed. It also helps clarify the family’s desires for their loved one and ensures that the legal next of kin gives authorization to the funeral home to perform the cremation.
- Burial or Cremation Transit Permit — You may never physically see this permit, but a funeral home, crematory, and cemetery will all be required to see these forms before proceeding with placing your loved one at rest. The document is the combined effort of the funeral home, the doctor signing the Death Certificate and determining the cause, and the Vital Statistics department. All must complete their portions before this permit is administered.
- Statement of Funeral Goods and Services — Once you have selected the goods and services you would like for your loved one, the funeral home is required to present you with an itemized contract with specific requirements from the Federal Trade Commission and often state statutes. The purpose of this is to provide complete clarity to the purchaser on the services you are being charged for.
Additional Documentation For Veterans
DD 214 — This is also referred to as a Certificate of Release or Discharge From Active Duty. It is a document of the United States Department of Defense and is issued upon the retirement or discharge from the Armed Forces of the United States. A copy of this will be required to qualify for military benefits such as a flag, monument, or burial at a Veterans cemetery.
Documents Needed to Make Funeral Arrangements
The following is a list of documents you may need to gather for the decedent in order to make funeral arrangements. While not all of the following documents may be required, it’s a good idea to gather as many as possible.
- Driver’s license, passport, or other relevant photo ID
- Birth Certificate
- Social Security Card (for the Social Security Number)
- Prepaid funeral or cremation policy paperwork, if applicable
- Military discharge paperwork
- Information relating to any owned cemetery property
If you’re uncertain what documents will be needed, you can check with the funeral home or mortuary handling the care of your loved one. They should be able to provide you with a comprehensive list of what will be required.
When a loved one passes, you may need to locate financial documents. For many, these items may be found in a filing cabinet, safe deposit box, purse or wallet, desk drawer, etc., and will include:
- Retirement account info (IRA, 401(k), annuity)
- Life insurance policies
- Stocks and bonds
- Income tax returns
- Bank statements
- Real estate deeds
- Car/RV/boat titles
- Timeshare contracts
It’s a good idea to have a conversation about where such documents will be kept long before your loved one passes. It can spare you the headache of spending hours searching for such paperwork. Our Free Funeral Pre-Planning Guide is an excellent resource to share with your loved ones to ensure their wishes are known, and the important details are shared.
Bills and Creditor Information
One of the necessary tasks will be to notify all creditors of the passing of your loved one. This will involve collecting all of the incoming bills and reaching out to each vendor. Such bills may include:
- Mortgage statement
- Property taxes
- Utilities, such as electricity, natural gas, water, sewer, garbage, etc.
- Vehicle Payments
- Cell phone
- Student loans
- Credit card bills
- Streaming services such as Netflix, Hulu, etc.
Because of the popularity of online bill pay and automatic withdrawals, it’s also a good idea to monitor the bank account of your loved one to ensure you’re not missing any accounts that should be closed. Depending on the creditor, they may require a copy of the death certificate in order to close the account.
Trust & Will Information
In order to settle the estate or trust of the decedent, it will be important to be familiar with any legal documents pertaining to the estate. Such items may include:
- Last will and testament and codicil(s)
- Revocable Living Trust
- Power of Attorney (POA)
- Living Will
- Medical power of attorney
Please note this list is not intended as legal advice and may not be comprehensive; rather, it should act as a helpful resource as you begin the process of collecting the necessary paperwork after a loved one has passed.
How After.com Can Help
At After.com, our primary responsibility is to put families at ease and act as a guide during your time of loss. We have the philosophy that caring for the families we serve doesn’t end when the cremation is complete. We provide additional grief counseling, resources, and dedicated support to help navigate the logistics of death — completing paperwork, notifying creditors, collecting benefits, and more. If you have questions about our direct cremation services or would like to request a quote on a prepaid cremation plan, contact us today.
To download a printable checklist of the documents included in this article, click here.