Most people don’t know what to do when a parent dies. Frankly, it’s not something you prepare for.
While it’s impossible to emotionally prepare, you can ease your stress by learning a little about estate administration. Here is what to do when a parent dies, in order of urgency:
Arrange for Funeral Costs
The average price of a funeral is about $9,000, a major cost for many people. However, you should know that the Federal Trade Commission watches how funeral homes operate, so they don’t take advantage of consumers during times of grief.
Get Original Death Certificates
Getting access to your parent’s accounts may require proof of death. So, this step should be done as soon as possible. You can get a death certificate from a funeral home director or vital records office. If your parent died in New York City, you’ll want to check with the NYC Department of Health. Otherwise, if your parent died anywhere else in New York State, you’ll want to check with the State Department of Health.
Contact Social Security
If your parent received Social Security, call the SSA to stop payments. You don’t want to have to repay the government for over payments. Furthermore, if you plan to apply for survivor’s benefits, or if you have other questions, visit www.SSA.gov.
You should contact your parent’s health care plan as soon as possible by calling the phone number on their ID card. Also, notify life insurance companies to start the process of filing claims. Finally, be sure to cancel any other insurance policies your parent had, like home or auto.
This is the most underrated advice for what to do when a parent dies. Be sure to gather documents and make a list for every expense that needs to be paid or canceled, including utility bills and credit cards.
If your parent owned financial accounts, they may have named beneficiaries. With a death certificate, you may be able to easily transfer accounts to the beneficiaries. Also, some accounts are also set up as “Payable on Death” or POD, which means the assets transfer directly to the beneficiary.
Look for a Will
Ask your parent’s friends and lawyers for a Will. A Will would identify an Executor, who assumes many responsibilities. If you’re the Executor, or even a Will beneficiary, contact Velella & Basso. We can help you probate a Will.
If you don’t find a Will, you could apply to become an Administrator of the estate. Generally, an Administrator pays debts, collects assets, and distributes property to heirs. Of course, this comes with obligations and liabilities to heirs, so many people choose to hire attorneys (often at the estate’s expense) to supervise the process.
If your parent didn’t have an accountant, find a reputable accountant. If possible, try to get ahead of taxes before they’re due to avoid surprise bills later.
The information on this website is not legal advice. It is for information purposes only. No user of this site should act or refrain on the basis of this information without seeking legal counsel. This website does not create an attorney-client relationship.