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What to Do After a Loved One Dies

The death of a loved one is always very traumatic. Many people forget to address certain issues and do not know who to contact when they have lost a loved one or how to handle the loved one's assets.

A. Employee Benefits
Many employers provide life, health and accident insurance. The deceased may be due a final paycheck for vacation or sick leave. T he survivors should contact the deceased's employer to see if he or she had any death benefits which would pass to the survivor or designated beneficiary.

If the deceased belonged to a union or professional organization, check to see if it offers death benefits for its members. Also find out about any credit union balances.

B. Social Security Administration ("SA")
If the deceased had paid into Social Security for at least 40 quarters, two types of SSA benefits may be available.

1. Death benefit
SSA will pay eligible spouses or dependent children the sum of $255 for burial expenses. The survivor can either (i) complete the necessary form at the local Social Security office; (ii) contact SSA directly and file the claim; or (iii) the funeral director may complete the application and apply the payment directly to the funeral bill.

2. Survivor's benefits
A variety of benefits are available depending on the age and relationship of any survivors. You may be eligible for benefits if you match any of these circumstances:

  • Spouse age 60 or older
  • Disabled surviving spouse age 50 or older
  • Spouse under 60 who cares for dependent children under 16 or disabled children
  • Children of the deceased under the age of 18 or who are disabled

You can contact SA at 800-772-1213 for an appointment with the nearest Social Security office to inquire about benefits and eligibility. When applying for survivor's benefits, you will need to have birth, death and marriage certificates; Social Security numbers; and a copy of the deceased's recent federal income tax return.

C. Department of Veterans Affairs ("VA")
If the deceased was receiving monthly payments already, you will need to notify the VA of the death. If the deceased was a veteran who received a discharge other than dishonorable, survivors may apply for a funeral benefit of approximately $300 for funeral expenses and $150 for burial costs. Also, burial in a national cemetery is free to a veteran, spouse and dependent children. Veterans are also eligible for a headstone or grave marker.

The surviving spouse and dependent children of disabled veterans may also be entitled to a lump sum death benefit or monthly payments, such as educational assistance and medical care. To reach the VA, you can call 800-827-1000 or see the VA website at www.va.gov.

The information presented in this article is not legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship with Joanne M. Sarubbi, Esq. No one should rely or act upon any information contained in this article without seeking individual professional counsel. If you have any questions regarding this article, please contact Joanne M. Sarubbi, Esq., 100 Morris Avenue, Suite 301, Springfield, New Jersey 07081. Phone: 973-671-1430 Fax: 973-218-0065

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