Guide for Survivors - Helpful Information
The time following the death of a loved one can be very stressful. There are many details and tasks that need to be accomplished and these may seem overwhelming. Below, we have included some information and tips that may help you complete some of these difficult tasks.
If at all possible, you should avoid making any major life decisions such as selling property. It may be beneficial to have an attorney assist with you with some of the responsibilities that need to be taken care of. You should also be cautious about signing any papers without having an attorney review them for you before you sign.
There are a number of important papers and information that you may want to gather. These include:
- Social security number(s) of your loved one, the spouse and any dependent children
- Insurance policies
- Veteran’s discharge papers
- Marriage certificate if the spouse is applying for benefits
- Birth certificates for all dependent children applying for benefits
- The will
- Death Certificate - Death certificates can be ordered from your county health department or the funeral director. It may be wise to order multiple copies of the death certificate because a copy of the death certificate is needed to apply for any benefits and will also be needed for matters regarding estates, wills, property, and insurance policies.
- List of assets such as saving accounts, real estate, stocks, bonds and personal property
Family members may be eligible to receive benefits following a loved one’s death through insurance policies, Social Security, the Veteran’s Administration, or an employer.
- Insurance - Family may be able to eligible to collect benefits from a number of different insurance policies following a loved one’s death, such as: life insurance, mortgage insurance, employer insurance, credit care insurance, and accident or auto insurance. If you have questions regarding eligibility for insurance benefits or how to file claims, you should contact the insurance agent who is responsible for the policy.
- Social Security - For information about Social Security benefits, call 1-800-772-1213. If your loved one was receiving Social Security benefits prior to their death, do not cash any checked received after their death.
- Veteran’s Benefits - Family members of military veterans may be eligible for benefits following their death, including burial benefits. Contact 1-800-827-1000 for information on veteran’s benefits.
- Employee Benefits - If your loved one was employed at the time of their death you should contact their employer to get more information on their benefits. Family may also be eligible for benefits from retirement pensions. Contact an attorney or financial advisor if you have questions about eligibility for these types of benefits.
Wills, Estates, Probate and Taxes
Some people choose to have a legal will drawn up to advise how they wish their estate handled after their death. An estate includes bank accounts, real estate, land, furniture, automobiles, stocks, bonds, life insurance policies, retirement funds, pensions, and death benefits. A will dictates how to distribute the assets of an estate. Within the will, a personal representative may have been appointed with the responsibility of seeing that the estate is distributed according to the conditions of the will. If a personal representative is not named in the will, the court will appoint one, usually a spouse or relative. If your loved one did not have a will, the estate will be distributed according to state law.
Probate is a legal process used to distribute the estate and pay any outstanding debts. If you have any questions about the probate process, you should contact your county probate court division office.
The personal representative either designated in the will or by the court, 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 the state of Minnesota, contact the Department of Revenue at 651-296-3781 or 1-800-652-9094.
For Federal tax information, call the Internal Revenue Service at 1-800-829-1040. The IRS also has a separate number to order tax forms, 1-800-829-3676.
Title, Ownership and Beneficiary Changes
After the death of your loved one, you will need to transfer titles and ownership of your loved one’s automobiles, personal property, real estate, and financial accounts. You should also review insurance policies and change or adjust beneficiaries as necessary. You should review the following documents:
- Insurance policies - Contact the insurance agent responsible for the policy to change beneficiaries or to make other changes to the policy.
Automobiles - Contact the Minnesota Department of Public Safety at 651-215-1328 for questions related to car titles.
- Investments - If you have questions regarding changes to your checking accounts, savings accounts, or other investments, contact your banker or financial advisor.
- Credit cards - Credit cards in your loved one’s name need to be cancelled. Payments due on those accounts should be paid by the estate.
- Safe deposit box - If you have questions about your safe deposit box, you should talk to your banker or attorney.
- Real estate - Direct questions about the sale or title transfer of any property to your attorney.
Resources for seniors
Following the death of loved one, elderly survivors may need assistance in areas such as homemaking, meals, health care or transportation.
- The Senior Linkage Line is a statewide telephone service that assists older adults in locating community resources available to them. 1-800-333-2433
- Whitney Senior Center is a community oriented organization providing a variety of social and educational opportunities for citizens, predominately age 55 and over, in the St. Cloud metropolitan area. This mission is accomplished in a non-discriminatory inclusive manner, emphasizing sensitivity and lifelong learning for the participants. 320-255-7245
Important Phone Numbers
Minnesota Department of Revenue 1-800-652-9094 or 651-296-3781
Internal Revenue Service Information 1-800-829-1040
Internal Revenue Service Forms 1-800-829-3676
Social Security Benefits 1-800-772-1213
Veteran's Benefits 1-800-827-1000
Minnesota Department of Public Safety 651-215-1328
Senior Linkage Line 1-800-333-2433
Whitney Senior Center - 320-255-7245