Formalities to Cover After the Death of a Loved One

Experiencing the loss of a loved one can be a difficult and overwhelming process, especially given the number of formalities to consider and take care of in the aftermath. From dealing with assets and taxes of the deceased to collecting benefits and avoiding overpaying for funeral costs, we’ve got you covered to give you a few less things to worry about. 




Here are a few things everyone should know in the event that they lose a loved one:



In terms of taking care of the deceased’s assets, there are a few elements to consider. Many things such as automobiles, bank accounts, insurance policies, and other things may still be under the person’s name. For example, things like bank accounts, credit and debit cards, and insurance policies may need to be altered and modified to ensure the proper situation and circumstance is being covered. 


Specifically for bank accounts, a joint bank account will automatically shift the title to the surviving person. However, credit cards that are under the deceased’s name should be cancelled or reissued if shared between multiple people.


If the deceased did not leave a will before he or she died, the law will determine how their assets are distributed. Additionally, all jointly held assets will be distributed to a surviving spouse, if there is one and beneficiaries will receive any insurance policies and retirement accounts upon the death. Assets that were owned solely by the individual will be dealt with by the law, but generally the spouse and children are favored in these types of situations.


What about probate?

Probate is a court-supervised proceeding that authenticates a will, meaning that it ensures all allocations are made properly and any existing wills are validated. This process also notifies all inheritors, beneficiaries and creditors that the will has been probated. As a result of the complexities of the process, the probation of a will typically requires legal assistance.


Benefits / Insurance

In terms of Social Security benefits, you can contact a local Social Security office to see if your loved one was eligible for coverage and entitled to certain benefits. If they are, you or your loved one’s beneficiaries may receive a death benefit from Social Security that can go towards funeral costs. All it takes is a simple application from eligible spouses or children who are entitled to these benefits — and you should be able to apply the benefit towards any burial expenses. Additionally, the surviving spouse could also be entitled to Social Security benefits if they are 60 years of age or older. 


Tax Implications

Unfortunately, there are certain taxes that need to be paid upon the death of a loved one. Of these include federal estate taxes, state estate taxes, income taxes, and more. Here’s a breakdown of each:

  • Federal Estate Taxes: Typically, the amount awarded to a surviving spouse is exempt from estate tax, which is normally only owed on estates. In order to file an estate tax return, you’ll need to contact the IRS for the proper documentation and forms within nine months of the death of your loved one.
  • State Estate Taxes: Each state will have different rules and regulations that they’ll enforce. States can also enforce estate taxes in addition to existing federal estate taxes.
  • Income Taxes: Your loved one’s state and federal income taxes will be due for the year of the death on the normal filing date. If you are the surviving spouse and you used to file your taxes jointly, you can file a joint federal income tax return for the year of your loved one’s death. Additionally, any dependents may be able to file for an additional two years, depending on certain circumstances. It won’t hurt to check the IRS regulations to make sure that you’re following the correct protocol.
  • Retirement plan or IRA distributions: Typically retirement plan or IRA distributions are taxable as it’s considered income with regards to the deceased because they haven’t paid the distribution’s income tax. Therefore, if the account’s value was incorporated in the estate tax return of the deceased, you may be entitled to a deduction for a segment of the estate taxes paid.


Lastly, there are a few things to consider when thinking about funeral and burial proceedings. Specifically, there are some regulations of the Federal Trade Commission which mandate the following:

  • Funeral providers must provide phone price and other relevant information to answer your questions over the phone and deliver a disclosure of important legal rights, a general price list, caskets for cremation or burial, embalming, and other required purchases by the provider.
  • The funeral providers must give you any service fees or payment of additional services in writing. They must also give you any insight about refunds, discounts, or rebates from the supplier.
  • The funeral provider cannot force or oblige you to buy unwanted services or additional fees. They must also provide an itemized list of the total cost of the funeral that you selected — This list should also provide information of any cemetery, legal, or crematory requirements that you must meet to purchase funeral services. 
  • Funeral providers cannot tell you that certain services will preserve your loved one’s body for an indefinite period of time or claim that funeral goods will prevent elements of the earth from entering.

If you have issues with a funeral provider that you are unable to resolve with the funeral director, you can contact either your federal, state, or local consumer protection agencies, or the Funeral Service Consumer Assistance Program (FSCAP) (

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