A death in the family will require certain duties to be carried out

A death in the family can present some real challenges at a very difficult time. Planning for the loss of a spouse, a partner or a parent is certainly not a topic most of us choose to dwell on.

Dealing with the death of a loved one is stressful enough but not knowing what to do after the person has passed away poses an additional burden on a grieving family.

Here is a list of things that need to be done after a death:-

Contact family members

Notify immediate family members. If you do not feel up to the challenge, delegate it to some other family member who is willing to take on that task.

Do not notify people of someone’s death via a social networking site. If you absolutely must use these networks to communicate a death in the family, send a direct message that the person has died and then shut down the account. You do not want thieves accessing information that will allow them to defraud the family.

Locate the will of the deceased

Contact the executor and, if it is you, contact the lawyer who drew up the will.

Other documents to gather are: insurance policies (life, homeowners, health, disability, auto), final credit card statements, investment accounts (registered and unregistered), last statement of chequing and savings accounts, last mortgage statement, last two years’ tax returns, marriage and birth certificates.

Call a funeral director

Make funeral arrangements if the deceased wanted one. Some people leave provisions in the will for the type of funeral and burial that they want, so make sure you check with the executor.

You will need to make decisions about the type of burial and graveside service.

Write the Obituary

Keep this short and sweet. Share as little information about the death in the family as possible. There are people that case obituaries for details of the deceased, like burglars case houses. Click here for information on Fraud Awareness

Death Certificate

You (or the executor) will need a death certificate for settling the finances of the deceased.

Alberta Vital Statistics will issue a death certificate and you can apply for this document at any Registry office. Most financial institutions, government agencies, creditors and other organizations will not talk to you about a loved one’s financial affairs until you produce a death certificate.

At least 10 – 15 death certificates will be needed and each one will need to be notarized.

Tend to Finances (or see that the executor performs these duties)

  • Cancel all joint accounts and if you were joint owner, reopen these accounts in your name.
  • Remove the deceased’s name from the title of any properties jointly owned.
  • Locate any life insurance policies and contact the insurance agent to settle the claims.
  • Check details of credit arrangements, including credit cards, loans and mortgages.
  • Contact appropriate institutions to inform them of the death and make payment arrangements.
  • Liquidate, or transfer, all registered accounts such as RRSPs, LIFs, LIRAs, RRIFs, TFSAs and others.
  • Contact Canada Pension plan to see if you qualify for the death benefit and cancel the deceased’s pensions.
  • Familiarize yourself with existing business arrangements and property holdings.
  • Decide what activities and holdings you will maintain.
  • File an individual tax return for the deceased for the period of January 1 of the current year to the date of death.

Cancel memberships and subscriptions

As soon as possible following the death in the family cancel any subscriptions, memberships and services that will no longer be used. If you are the surviving spouse, transfer the power, electricity and water bills to your name.

Shred records

Once the estate has been distributed shred all records that are no longer useful. Before doing this, make sure that you have a Clearance Certificate from Canada Revenue Agency.

This certificate will be issued after the final tax return has been filed and assessed and all taxes, contributions, interest and penalties have been paid.

Take Time Out

In the flurry of planning a funeral and arranging finances, you may feel numb.

When it has been taken care of, take the time to think about the death in the family and what it means to you. The five stages of grief are denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.

There is no lime limit on the grieving process. Allow family members and friends to lend a hand so you can take your time and find closure following the death. Find an organization that offers grief counseling to help you through this difficult period.

Going through all the personal items and economic affairs of someone who has died is bound to be stressful.

If you are the Executor, it’s very useful to ask the person whose affairs you will be winding down to ensure that all of the necessary documents will be readily available if and when the need arises. 

Click here for an example of how to assemble personal and financial records.

When you are actually in the position of executor, this check list can be extremely useful in making sure you cover all the bases, click here for Executor's Checklist.