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What to do when a loved one dies

When a loved one dies it can throw our world into turmoil. Grief and sorrow can make it impossible to tend to daily activities let alone any responsibilities that will require the attention of surviving family members. Navigating through this time can seem impossible but certain matters are time sensitive and need to be handled with care to prevent identity fraud or legal issues down the line. So what does one have to do when a loved one dies? Here’s a few key things to keep in mind.

1. Choose a Funeral Home

If the deceased has pre-planned cremation and funeral arrangements, you will need to locate the documented wishes and instructions and carry them out. If no arrangements have been made prior to passing then the responsibility of decision making will fall on the immediate family members. It can be a challenge for grieving loved ones and it’s important that all those involved communicate openly and work together in such a difficult time.

Search through any documents belonging to the deceased and look for a prepaid burial plan. If no plan has been established, you will need to choose a funeral home, decide on the disposition of the body, type of funeral held, location, time and where the ashes or body will be buried. There are many cremation service options so it’s a good idea to shop around and compare prices. Your funeral director will file for a death certificate – a legal document provided by the government, that you will need to handle financial and legal matters of the deceased. It’s a good idea to obtain several certified copies of this document.

2. Forward mail

You can place a forwarding order at the local post office and have all of the deceased mail sent directly to you or another desired location. This will allow you to track what assets, accounts and subscriptions the deceased had. Make a list of all existing bills. They will need to be taken care of by the executor when settling the estate. 

3. Find and carry out the will 

A will instructs what the deceased wishes are regarding how their assets should be distributed. If your loved one’s will has been drafted or signed by a lawyer, it’s a good idea to contact the firm and ask for any other legal documents the deceased might have left behind. If your loved one named an executor in their will, you will need to contact them, as they will be responsible for initiating the probate process.


The probate process is a court proceeding in which the will is reviewed for authenticity and the named executor is given legal right to carry out the will. The executor is responsible for overseeing all of the deceased’s assets, settling the estate and paying any taxes and debts. 

If no will has been left behind, the probate court will appoint an administrator who will act as an executor, oversee the estate, paying off outstanding debts and locating any heirs that may be legally entitled to any assets. 

4. Contact all necessary parties. 

The deceased’s employer. If the deceased was employed you will need to notify the employer of their passing. Inquire about any due paychecks and company life insurance policies.

The deceased’s CPA. Notify the deceased’s CPA about their passing so that a final tax return can be filed. Taxes will also have to be paid during the process of settling the estate. 

The Social Security Administration. If the deceased was receiving social security you will need to contact the Social Security Administration to cancel the checks. In many cases, funeral directors will do this for you, however the responsibility is ultimately yours. The Social Security Administration will contact Medicaid if necessary.

Insurance companies. If your loved one had life insurance, you can call the insurance company to make a claim. To do this you will need a certified copy of the death certificate and the policy number. 

Cancel any other insurance policies such as car or home insurance and inquire about any remaining premium that should be refunded.

Banks, financial institutions. If your loved one was the sole owner of an account, the bank will release funds to the beneficiary once they’re informed of the account holder’s passing. If you have a joint account and your partner passes away, you will need a certified copy of the death certificate to remove the deceased and become the sole owner of the account.

You will also need to close any credit card accounts the deceased had. Each account will require a certified copy of a death certificate and the executor will need to be informed of any outstanding balances.  

5. Cancel services and subscriptions 

Cancel any paid subscriptions your loved one was signed up for as well as cell phone plans, cable or internet services.

6. Take measures to prevent identity fraud. 

Send a certified copy of the death certificate to either the TransUnion, Equifax or Experian to prevent identity theft. Close any email accounts and handle social media profiles. Some platforms such as Facebook will mark a profile of a deceased as a memorial profile where friends can continue to share photos and memories. 

Visit the local DMV with a certified copy of the earth certificate to have the deceased removed from the department’s records. Though this will invalidate their driving license, keep it as it may be needed to handle any other accounts and matters.

As your Funeral director, TJ Cohan of Cremations of Greater Tampa Bay is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, to promptly answer any questions you may have. His hope is to make this difficult time as easy as possible for families.

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Florida law states “A cremation may not be performed until a legally authorized person gives written authorization for such cremation,” (FS 497.607).  Furthermore, the law defines whom the “legally authorized person” is and sets up the order of priority of next of kin. We require a written authorization before scheduling any cremation or funeral services. The “Authorization for Cremation and Disposition” form must be signed by the next of kin in the following order: spouse, son or daughter (of legal age), parent, brother or sister, grandchild, grandparent.

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