December, January, February the Months When Most Seniors Die – What to do Next

December, January, February the Months When Most Seniors Die – What to do Next

Research by The Centers for Disease Control and others found that the chance of dying is significantly greater on December 25, 26 and January 1.  According to the U.S. National Vital Statistics Reports, average daily deaths are highest in December, January and February.  This is true for people who die of the five most common diseases:  circulatory problems, respiratory diseases, endocrine/ nutritional/metabolic conditions, digestive diseases and cancer – generally our seniors.

The surviving spouse or adult child is faced with issues and requirements for which they are ill-prepared.  They are over-whelmed by the situation and are experiencing enormous grief.  Statistics tell us that it is usually the wife who is the surviving spouse.  And, in the elder generation she may never have balanced a checkbook or even written a check.  It is likely that she is not technologically savvy.  The surviving spouse or adult child often doesn’t know where to start – and in some cases, time is of the essence.   They will have personal needs, documents to collect and secure, and decisions to make and specific tasks to complete.  It will seem like a mountain of things to do.  The surviving spouse or adult child may want to enlist the help of professionals.  They should contact their family attorney, accountant, wealth manager, for assistance in probate, taxes and other specific areas.

We at The Seniors’ Answer are able to help with the some or all of the process of collecting and securing documents and completing the tasks, reducing the burden on the family.

On the personal side they need to:

  • Take time to catch their breath – but not too much time
  • Allow people to help – family, friends and neighbors want to help and they will need them
  • Delegate one or more items on the checklist below
  • Get help from physicians as they are likely to experience loneliness, isolation, depression deteriorating health or other problems
  • Write things down in a notebook as the brain is not at its best during this time
  • Check the deceased’s landline or cell phone for a voicemail greeting they may want to save

There will be an obituary to write.  In this era of identity theft it is best to keep it very short as there are people who case obituaries like thieves case homes.  For the same reason, keep posts on social media brief.

 Documents to collect and secure:

There will be a long list of documents to collect and secure to enable them to submit claims for benefits and monies due and identify outstanding debts.  Many families neglect to prepare this list while they are alive and sound of mind.  Preparing this list is a gift to their spouse and children.  They will need death certificates, social security number, military discharge papers, marriage certificate, will, trust(s), insurance policies (life, health, auto, homeowners, etc.), credit card statements, list of assets (real estate, personal property, titles, investment accounts (IRA’s, 401ks, mutual funds, pensions, etc.), stock certificates, bank statements (savings, checking, money market, CDs), items from safe deposit box (must have key and authorization), last mortgage statement, last two year’s tax returns, marriage and birth certificates of deceased and family.

Decisions to be made and tasks to complete (in many cases to complete the item the death certificate will be required):

  • Obtain 5 – 20 certified copies of the death certificate (depending on the complexity of the situation)
  • Notify the Social Security  and Veteran’s offices
  • Contact all life insurance companies Veteran’s office to file for the death benefit – file ASAP
  • Notify the credit bureaus
  • Pay bills including those that are quarterly or annual such as real estate taxes
  • Notify the health insurance provider the death has occurred – but medical bills will continue to be sent for months after the death and will be paid if warranted
  • Apply for survivor’s benefits
  • Make a complete list of all credit cards, debit cards, phone cards, airline mileage accounts and notify them
  • Make a complete list of all user names and passwords for all online accounts
  • Check all household service companies to ensure their name is on the account (electric, gas, trash, pest control, etc.)
  • Make changes to their emergency contact and beneficiary list
  • Cancel memberships and subscriptions

This is not an exhaustive list as many families will have additional needs and tasks dependent upon their situation.

To assist families in preparing this all important information, we have created a Personal Affairs Record.  To receive the PDF click here PersonalAffairsRecord.   We wish the family the best at this very difficult time.