This information is only a guide for what to do after death. It should not be considered all-inclusive, as other legal or professional advice may be necessary.
On behalf of everyone at Allina Health who gave care and support to your loved one, we wish to express our sincere sympathy to you and your family upon the death of your loved one.
Though words cannot take your loss away, it is our hope that this information will assist and support you through this time of grief.
If you find yourself in a crisis or, if you feel inconsolable, call your county crisis line or 911. Our list of crisis services may also help.
May your sorrow be eased in the days ahead.
This guide will give you some practical help in facing the many tasks ahead of you.
If you have questions about the cause of death, please feel free to discuss these with your doctor. You have the right to request an autopsy. If you would like to have an autopsy performed, ask your doctor as soon as possible.
If your doctor believes the cause of death is clear and you still wish to request an autopsy, you may have to pay for it. If an autopsy is performed, you have the right to know the results. Call your doctor for this information.
Funeral, burial arrangements, cremation
One person who can answer many of your questions is your funeral director. He or she can handle some of the details for you, such as obtaining death certificates and making burial arrangements. The funeral director also will be able to answer many of your questions about the funeral service, finding a clergy person to conduct the funeral if you are not affiliated with a congregation, burial arrangements, cremation and monuments.
You may be asked by the funeral director if you wish the body to be embalmed. Embalming is recommended for a visitation and funeral. It is not necessary for immediate cremation followed by a memorial service. Any funeral director can make arrangements for burial or cremation.
Buying a funeral service is similar to other consumer purchases. Federal law requires that a general price list be read to you on the phone or given to you in writing. Do not hesitate to ask price questions; do not feel obligated to spend more than you can afford. Although prices may reflect the quality of things like wood or metal, price is not a measure of your love for the one who has died.
Some airlines provide reduced rates for family members who travel by air for a funeral if you have a copy of the death certificate or obituary. Ask your funeral director for help with this.
Children and funerals
Whether the ritual you are planning is a visitation, funeral, memorial service or graveside service, consider involving the children. Children should not be forced to attend or made to feel guilty if they prefer not to, but with support and an explanation of what will occur, most children choose to participate. They can contribute ideas for music, poems or readings, colors for flowers or accessories, pictures or notes for the casket, words or memories to share.
Children and teens benefit from death rituals and religious traditions in the same way adults do by:
After the funeral
In the first months after a death, many details will need attention. The following information is meant as a guide and resource. You may also want the assistance of a professional financial advisor or lawyer.
If you don't have a lawyer, you can contact the:
Important papers and information you will need
You will need a death certificate whenever you must prove that you are a survivor or executor of an estate and will be receiving funds or property because of the death.
One death certificate is needed for each insurance policy and each financial institution. Death certificates can be ordered from your funeral director or your county health department. It is less expensive to order multiple copies than to pay for them one at a time.
You may be eligible for benefits through insurance policies, Social Security, the Veterans' Administration or an employer.
Insurance: Insurance benefits can often be processed quickly and simply with the proceeds paid directly to the beneficiary. For information on filing claims, check with the policy insurance agent. Look for the following types of insurance policies:
Social Security: For information about Social Security benefits, call 1-800-772-1213 or visit ssa.gov. If your loved one was receiving Social Security benefits, do not cash any checks received after death.
Veterans' benefits: For information about veterans' benefits including burial benefits, call 1-800-827-1000 or visit va.gov.
Employee benefits: If your loved one was employed at the time of death, contact the employer for information on benefits. If your loved one was retired and receiving a pension, you may also be eligible for benefits. Your lawyer or financial adviser can help you determine eligibility for benefits.
Wills and estates
A will is a legal document that transfers ownership of the estate at the time of death. An estate consists of bank accounts, houses, land, furniture, automobiles, stocks, bonds, life insurance policies, retirement funds, pensions and death benefits. Your loved one's lawyer, family or friends might know where the will is kept. If your loved one did not have a will, the estate will be distributed according to state law.
A personal representative (also known as an executor or administrator) may be named in the will. This person will be responsible for seeing that the property is distributed in accordance with the will. If there is no will or if a personal representative is not named, the court will appoint one, usually the spouse or a relative.
Probate is a legal process used to distribute the estate and pay any outstanding debts. Your county probate court division office is an excellent source of accurate information about probate. The phone number is in your telephone book or directory information.
The personal representative is responsible for filing final federal and state income tax returns for the year of death and previous years. Estate, inheritance, business and property taxes may also be due. For more information about taxes due in:
For Federal tax information, call the Internal Revenue Service at 1-800-829-1040 or visit irs.gov. To order Publication 559, "Information for Survivors, Executors and Administrators" and other tax forms, call 1-800-829-3676.
Titles, ownership and beneficiary changes
You will need to transfer titles and ownership for your loved one's automobile, personal property, real estate and financial accounts. You may also need to adjust your insurance policies and your will to change beneficiaries. The following documents should be reviewed:
Services for senior citizens
Sometimes an elderly survivor may need assistance in such areas as homemaking, meals, health care or transportation. The Senior Linkage Line™ at 1-800-333-2433 can be of help. It is a statewide telephone information service that helps older adults and families to find community resources.
Grief can be painful, frightening and overwhelming. Like many people, you may worry that you are grieving appropriately, and wonder if the feelings you have are normal. Grief is individual. Remember, there is no "right way" to grieve.
Most people who suffer a loss have one or more of the following:
These are all natural and normal responses. It is important to cry and talk with people when you need to. This might be an important time to seek help from a grief support group, a counselor or a clergy person.
Talking to children about death
Communication about death, as with all communication, is easier when children feel they have our permission to talk about the subject and believe we are sincerely interested in their views and questions. To encourage your child to communicate, listen attentively and answer questions honestly.
Every child is an individual. Communication about death depends on the child's age and experiences. Very young children may view death as temporary and may be more concerned about separation from their loved ones than about death itself. They can absorb only limited amounts of information. Give brief, simple answers, and repeat them as often as necessary.
You may not always "hear" what children are really asking. Sometimes you can respond to a question with a question in order to clarify what they are asking and to fully understand their concerns.
Children often feel guilty and angry when they lose a close family member. Reassure them that nothing they did or said caused the death. And remember to reassure them that they will continue to be loved and cared for.
Children may mourn a deeply felt loss periodically for many years. Give them support and understanding through this grief process and permission to show their feelings openly and freely.
The time following the death of a loved one can be very stressful. If at all possible, delay making major decisions, such as selling property, giving away personal mementos and disposing of personal belongings.
Allina Health Grief Resources, 651-628-1752
Internal Revenue Service Information, 1-800-829-1040
Internal Revenue Service Forms, 1-800-829-3676
Minnesota Department of Public Safety, 651-296-6911
Minnesota Department of Revenue, 1-800-657-3781
Senior Linkage Line, 1-800-333-2433
Social Security Benefits, 1-800-772-1213
Veterans' Benefits, 1-800-827-1000
Allina Health's Patient Education Department, When a Loved One Dies, grief-ahc-20017 (10/10)
Allina Health's Patient Education Department
For information about grief support in the Twin Cities and surrounding area, call Allina Health Grief Resources at 651-628-1752.
In other communities, call your local hospital or hospice to ask about grief support in your area.
Our grief support group and services listings may also help.
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