If someone in your family passes away, the last thing you want to worry about is documentation and details. Unfortunately, important documents like the original certified death certificate for the deceased must be collected, copied, and used to close out their affairs. If you have an attorney assisting the family, they will handle all of the legal affairs, including documentation, otherwise, you will have to do so yourself. The following guide will walk you through which legal documents, like the death certificate, you need to fill out and copy to use when closing affairs.
As a close relative of the deceased, you likely have a large number of legal obligations. The first step is, of course, to get a legal pronouncement of death, which requires having a medical doctor or person with legal responsibility present at the time of death or shortly after. Afterwards, you can call the mortuary or funeral home to arrange for transport.
The death certificate is a legal document showing that the deceased is dead, how they died, and when and where they died. This document is signed by the coroner or residing physician at the mortuary or funeral home where your loved one is taken after death.
How Long Does It Take to Receive a Death Certificate After a Loved One Passes Away? – Usually 1-12 days depending on the circumstances of death and the mortuary. Some states have a minimum 72-hour law.
You will have to register the deceased’s death within 10 days of receiving a death certificate. You will also receive a (Document) to transport, cremate, or bury the body at this time, following which you can arrange for the funeral or ceremony.
You will typically need between 1 and 20 copies of the death certificate. If you didn’t order them right away, you can order copies of your loved one’s death certificates online. This process will prevent you from having to go back to the funeral home and having to wait for due processes.
Existing Legal Documents
Your loved one may have legal documents such as a will, instructions regarding cremation or burial, and instructions regarding their estate or property. If these documents do not have an appointed legal guardian, you can appoint someone from within the family to take charge of bringing these documents to someone with appropriate legal powers (a lawyer, judiciary, etc.)
These documents should normally be taken to the local county or city office to be accepted for probate unless other arrangements have been made.
Closing Out the Deceased’s Accounts
Most people collect a range of responsibilities, accounts, and even benefits during their life. It is important to handle these matters as quickly as possible after death. You will need several copies of the death certificate for this purpose.
Social Security – Call the Social Security Administration at l-800-772-1213 to begin the process or visit your local social security office. You will need an original certified death certificate for this purpose. Neglecting to do so will result in having to pay back any benefits that were paid out after death.
Service Providers – Contact service providers, utilities, internet service providers, and subscriptions. Some will require a photocopy or fax of the death certificate. Others will not. None should legally require an original, certified copy except to photocopy.
Close Bank Accounts – Closing bank accounts in the state typically requires that you bring original certified death records, and typically proof of your own relationship to the deceased.
Insurance – Many people take out insurance policies on their life, car, home, and even mortgage. Closing out an insurance policy and claiming it will require that you have an original certified death certificate (per policy/company).
Pension – Family members can often claim pension benefits from a deceased, but even if not, it is crucial to alert both state and company pension funds to alert them that the deceased is no longer able to receive benefits.
You will also need copies of the death certificate to close out mortgages, payments, loans, leases, tax obligations, safety deposit boxes, bills, and other obligations. Similarly, if the deceased owns stocks or bonds (non-trust) you will need an original certified death certificate per company or stockbroker to close these out.
Widows and widowers may want to retain a copy of a certified death certificate to prove they are unmarried.