Nobody likes to think about death, but if your spouse or parent has named you as the primary beneficiary on a life insurance policy, there are some things you SHOULD think about before your loved one dies. Having a clear plan and a check-list now will make it easier for you remember important tasks and deal with them.
Know where the will is and who is the executor of the estate. Since original copies are typically kept in safety deposit boxes, you should also have the name and contact information for the attorney who drew up the document.
Know where important documents are kept. These include life insurance policies, health insurance coverage, annuities, Social Security Number, tax returns or W-2 forms from at least one or two years’ prior, birth certificates for the surviving spouse and any minor, disabled or dependent children, bank and savings account numbers, stocks and securities issued to your loved one, real estate deeds, automobile titles, installment payment books, certified copy of marriage certificate, photo id such as a valid driver’s license or passport, and proof of citizenship, if applicable.
Know the contact information for your loved one’s employer (if he or she is still working) so you can notify them in the event of death. There may be death benefits, accrued vacation and sick time, pension payouts and salary due to the survivor. This is also true for any union membership, service organization or professional organization your loved one belongs to. If your loved one is or was a member of the armed forces, learn if there are also military benefits that you may be entitled to.
Review all the policies including health insurance from which you as a survivor may receive benefits, so that you understand what you’re entitled to and how to claim it.
Have a list of all bank accounts and credit card numbers. You may need an attorney to help you access bank funds and close accounts, or transfer their ownership to you. You should find out if your loved one has credit life insurance on any outstanding credit cards so that you can notify the creditor immediately.
Assembling these details while your spouse or parent is healthy will save you the stress of dealing with them at of time of grief. You or someone you designate will be able to promptly and efficiently file for life insurance benefits. At that time, you will need to order multiple certified copies of the death certificate (experts recommend 10 to 15 copies – note that photocopies are not acceptable), contact the insurance companies, the estate attorney, social security office, financial institutions and creditors.