What Do I Need When a Loved One Dies


I am often asked what needs to be located and collected after a loved one dies?
The first thing I always say is take time to mourn your loss.  There is very little time sensative things that need to be done in the first week or even month after someone passes away.  And honestly, things could wait.  You need to take care of yourself.
But once you are ready, things do need to be taken care of and important papers need to be located in order to settle the decedent's affairs.  Although not all inclusive, here is a list of things you should probably start gathering (and accept as noted, copies of documents will work just fine):
Asset Information:
  • Account Statements - including bank, brokerage, and retirement accounts for at least the three months prior to death
  • Life Insurance Policies - note that some insurance companies will require the return of the original insurance policy
  • Beneficiary Designations - for life insurance, retirement accounts, and pay on death accounts
  • Deeds for Real Estate - there's a common misconception that the original deed is needed, but a copy will work just fine
  • Cars and Boats - Original will be needed to transfer title
  • Stocks and Bonds - for stocks or bonds held in certificate form, the original certificate will be needed to transfer legal title
Business Documents:

If the decedent owned a business, then the following documents will be needed:
  • Corporate, LLC or Partnership Documents - this includes copies of the corporate charter or articles of organization and minutes; a copy of the shareholder's agreement, operating agreement, or partnership agreement; and original stock or LLC certificates to transfer legal title
  • Account Statements - including bank, brokerage, and retirement accounts for at least the three months prior to death
  • Car and Boat Titles - the originals will be needed if legal title will be transferred
  • Contracts - including leases, loans, and employment agreements
  • Business Licenses - including local and state licenses
  • Income Tax Returns - past three years

Contracts and Agreements:

Copies or originals of the following will be needed, if applicable:
  • Prenuptial Agreement - including any amendments
  • Loans - including personal loans, lines of credit, and mortgages, along with the original promissory notes
  • Leases - including real estate and automobile leases


Copies of the following bills will be needed:

  • Utility Bills
  • Cell Phone Bills
  • Credit Card Bills
  • Mortgage and loans
  • Real Estate Tax Bills
  • Medical Bills
  • Funeral Bills

Estate Planning Documents:

If the decedent had an estate plan, then copies or originals of the following documents will be needed:
  • Last Will and Testatement
  • Revocable Living Trust
  • Other Estate Planning Documents

Tax Returns:

  • Federal, state and gift tax returns for last three years

Death Certificates:

Multiple, original death certificates will be needed to settle the decedent's affairs. I tell my clients to order ten at a minimum.