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What agencies should I inform about a loved one's death?

You'll need to inform certain agencies and organizations about the death of your loved one for financial and legal reasons. Most will require a certified death certificate, which you can obtain through the funeral home or the county health department in the county where the death occurred.
  • Insurance companies. Notify life insurance companies of the death. Find out if the deceased made any arrangements to cover mortgages, other bank loans, and credit card debts.
  • U.S. Social Security Administration. If the deceased received Social Security benefits, contact this agency about the death. If you're applying for survivor's benefits, you'll need to supply birth, marriage, and death certificates; Social Security numbers; and the last federal income tax return.
  • Other sources of funds and benefits. You may be eligible for certain burial or death benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs or Social Security Administration. For example, the veterans agency defrays some funeral and burial costs; veterans and their spouses and dependent children can be buried at no cost in a national cemetery (so can some Public Health Service personnel); survivors may also receive educational or medical aid. The person who died may have had life, accident, or health insurance coverage through a current employer or been owed for unused vacation or sick time. It's worth contacting past employers of the deceased to ask if you're entitled to any death benefits, too. Also contact professional organizations and unions.
  • Banks. Banks can freeze funds in joint accounts in some states. If possible, before an anticipated death, ask your bank what laws govern joint accounts, and find out how funds can be released if an account is frozen. It may make sense to transfer money to a new account.
  • Creditors. Write to all credit card companies and other creditors to explain the circumstances. Ask whether there was any form of insurance to cover the debt. Remember to copy all correspondence. If you speak with anyone on the phone, write down the person's name and extension number. Often, a certified death certificate (and occasionally other records) will be required.
  • Probate court. Probate is a public, legal process supervised by the courts after a person dies. It helps ensure that debts are paid and assets are properly owned and correctly distributed.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.