Preparing for a Loved One’s Passing

When a loved one passes, they leave behind more than just memories. Their funeral must be planned, their bank and investment accounts transferred and closed, their pets rehomed, and their final bills paid.

The job of handling those personal and legal details may add to the stress and grief you are already feeling. Cheryl Nobusada (Ryan Kosakura’s wife) shares with us what to do, and even how to prepare, for the end of someone’s time here on earth.

Just know that others are here to help, including us, your trusted wealth advisors. You’ll also want to seek the help of attorneys and CPAs, as well as friends and family whom you can delegate tasks or lean on for emotional support.

To download the checklist below in a spreadsheet click here.


Trust: It is important in certain states, especially California, to create a Living Trust in order to avoid probate after your loved one passes.  A trust will also clearly state wishes and provide guidance.

Will: It is also important to have a pourover Will to capture any items excluded from the Living Trust.

Executor(s): It is equally important to discuss your Living Trust with the named executor(s) and/or anyone who has power of attorney and provide him/her with a copy.

Health Care Directive:
1. Communicate your wishes with the person appointed as your healthcare directive, i.e. do not resuscitate, etc.
2. A copy of the health care directive should also be submitted to your Primary Care Physician, Hospital and any other medical professional that
should be notified.

Power of Attorney – Finances: Discuss your finances with the person appointed as your power of attorney over your finances.  It would be helpful to provide a list of all financial accounts, including but not limited to checking, savings, brokerage, life insurance, etc. along with who to contact and where the account is located.

Documents: A list of all important documents should be made and provided to your executor.  This should include but is not limited to Living Trust, Will, Social Security Card, Auto Ownership, House Deed, Life Insurance Policy, Financial Records, Safety Deposit Box Keys, digital passwords, etc.

End of Life Care: Discuss whether your loved one would like palliative and/or hospice care and if the care is covered by their insurance. Medicare currently covers hospice care only.
~ Palliative Care provides comfort upon terminal diagnosis
~ Hospice Care provides comfort within approximately six months of end of life
Do Not Resuscitate:  Discuss whether your loved one would like to have a ‘do not resuscitate’ (DNR) form on file which means he/she does not want CPR performed or any other measures when a meaningful life is no longer available.
Organ Donation: Ask your loved one if he/she would like to donate their organs.
Funeral Arrangements: Ask your loved one if he/she prefers to be cremated or buried and if preburial plans have already been made with a mortuary and possibly prepaid.


Legal Pronouncement of Death is required in order to receive a death certificate:
~ if at a hospital or nursing home, staff will make the pronouncement
~ if at home under hospice care, contact the hospice nurse
~ if at home not under hospice care, call 911
**Note: if your loved one has a Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) on file, it is important to display the notice and inform anyone that cares for your loved one, especially paramedics to avoid transportation to the hospital, etc.**

Transportation of Body: If an autopsy is not required or needed, contact the mortuary to notify them of your loss and to prepare a pick up of the body.

Contact Medical Professionals: Notify your loved ones Doctor(s) of your loss.

Contact Family and Friends: Compile a list of family and friends that should be notified of your loved one’s passing. Please remember that you are not alone and can ask others to make calls on your behalf.

Dependents: Arrangements for caregiving will need to be made for minor children and pets. Ideally, pre-arrangements should have been made in advance and you should carry out their wishes. In addition, legal documentation may be on file.

Employer: If your loved one is still employed, contact his/her employer to notify them of the loss and inquire about benefits, life insurance and potential pay that may be due.


Funeral Pre-Planning:

Mortuary/Burial Planning: ~ If your loved one pre-planned his/her burial, contact the mortuary to execute his/her wishes
~ If your loved one did not pre-plan his/her burial, the decision(s) can collectively be made with family and possibly close friends to determine your loved one’s final wishes including his/her remains and service requests.
**Note: if your loved one was in the military or a member of a religious group, he/she may have benefits through the organization.

□  Obituary: Often times, the mortuary will assist with getting obituaries published. Please prepare the obituary, a picture (optional), and a list of publications. If assistance is not included through the mortuary, contact each publication separately.
**Note: if you include details of a final service please make arrangements for someone you trust to watch over your loved one’s home to avoid a break-in.

Funeral Planning:

Date: Decide on the date of the service and be prepared for a few back ups in the event the location and/or officiant are not available.

Attendees: List all of the potential attendees to determine the size of the location.

Location: Contact the location of the service for available dates.
1. Chairs: confirm the number to ensure there will be enough seating for your guests. If not, you may consider renting additional chairs.
2. PA System: confirm the microphone and other required equipment will be available
3. Projector: if you would like to include a short video, inquire about the necessary equipment
4. Parking: review the parking situation and consider assigning parking attendants and having a location for overflow parking

Officiant: Contact the officiant for available dates.

Musician: Contact the musician (optional) for available dates

Floral Arrangements:
1. List all of the floral arrangements to order
2. List all of the boutonnieres to order

Guest Book: If the family would like a guest book, one can be purchased at a local stationary store and someone at the service should be assigned to monitor and collect the book.
**Note: bring lots of pens and consider a guest book that can open to spread out the pages.

Program: If the family would like a program, you will need to find a local printer.
1. Find a picture for the program that can also be used at the Altar
2. Find a printer to discuss the details, quantity and cost

Biography: The biography can include milestone dates, hobbies, and memorable occasions.
Confirm that the location has enough chairs for the service. If not, you may consider renting additional chairs.

1. Make a list of all monetary gratuities which may include a donation to the location of the service, the officiant, and the musician.
2. Make a list of all the thank you’s that need to be made”


1. Attorney: Notify the attorney and/or executor to determine responsibilities and next steps.

2. Auto:
1. Update the title
2. Re-register the vehicle
3. Pay registration fees
1. Death Certificate – Copy
2. Transfer Form obtained at the DMV – DMV Transfer instructions
Roadside Assistance Notify the company to update or cancel the policy. If the policy was for the deceased only, discontinue all future payments.

3. CPA: Notify the CPA to determine whether an estate tax return is required and to file a final tax return for your loved one.

4. Credit Bureaus: Notify each agency to flag the credit report as “Deceased. Do Not Issue Credit”. You may also follow up with a letter sent certified mail.
1. Experian 888-397-3742
2. Equifax 800-685-1111
3. TransUnion 800-888-4213

5. Death Certificate(s): Notify the county of your loved one’s passing, however, the mortuary you choose may file on your behalf and the certificates will follow in approximately 10 business days. Determine the number of certificates needed prior to contacting the county or mortuary

6. Debt: Promptly review all debts, mortgages, installment payments, etc. as some may carry life insurance clauses that will cancel the debt. Coordinate/Consult with creditors, especially if payments will be delayed.

7. Doctors: Notify and cancel any upcoming appointments for physicians, dentists, optometrists, etc.

8. Driver’s License: Submit current or expired driver’s license to the DMV. For additional information, please click on DMV Instructions ”
1. Driver’s License
2. Death Certificate – Original
3. Letter with name of deceased, contact person & contact info

9. Financial Institutions
Checking & Savings: Update the title of your accounts after all payments/checks have been received and order new checks. Please note that if you remove someone from the title of an account, you will not be able to deposit checks made payable to that individual or the family of that individual. Death Certificate – bring original and ask your bank to make a copy and return the original
1. Update the title of you accounts as noted above.
2. Request your financial institution to step-up the cost basis of all eligible accounts (non-retirement) to the date of death.” Death Certificate – bring original and ask your bank to make a copy and return the original
Credit Cards: Cancel all credit cards after payments are complete. If possible, this should be done prior to the obituary being printed to prevent fraudulent activity.
Retirement (IRA, 401K, etc.):
1. Determine if a Required Minimum Distribution needs to be completed for the year, complete the withdrawal and then transfer assets to another IRA pursuant to the beneficiary information.
2. If the surviving spouse has a retirement account, update the beneficiary(ies).
Form required by your financial intuition
Safety Deposit Box Review contents and determine whether the box is still needed.

10. Home
Appraisal Consider: a home appraisal or comps from a realtor to determine the step-up cost basis at the date of death. The increased cost basis can be used if the surviving spouse sells the home. The step-up basis should also be discussed with a CPA and/or financial advisor. Appraisal or Comps from a Realtor
Deed: Update the title on the deed. If you have a trust, this can be done when your trust is updated (see item 19 below). Death Certificate – Original

11. Income & Benefits
Charitable Remainder Trust: Review and possibly re-direct payouts
Employer: Notify Human Resources or Employee Benefits to determine eligibility for continued insurance, accrued vacation pay and other potential benefits.
Pension Notify: the company and submit a claim for survivor income.
Social Security: The surviving spouse may be eligible for their loved one’s Social Security benefits and a small death benefit. For more information, refer to item 17 below.

12. Insurance
Auto: Update the title of your accounts
1. Death Certificate – bring original and ask Rep to make a copy
2. Form required by the insurance company
Health: Notify your healthcare company and discontinue any automatic premium payments. If a premium refund is due, request the title of the check, i.e. name of Trust or Spouse which may require a form vs the Estate of the Deceased which requires a separate Tax Identification Number. Medicare is notified automatically by Social Security.
Health – Long Term Care: Notify the long-term care company. If a premium refund is due, request the title of the check, i.e. name of Trust or Spouse which may require a form vs the Estate of the Deceased which will require a separate Tax Identification Number.
An additional letter may be required to properly issue the check.
Home: Update the title of your accounts
**Note: if the home is vacant, inquire about a ‘vacant policy’
1. Death Certificate – bring original and ask Rep to make a copy
2. Form required by the insurance company
1. Update the beneficiary(ies) and review policies to determine if the same level of coverage is still needed.
2. If the surviving spouse has a policy, update the beneficiary(ies).
Form required by the insurance company and possibly a witness signature.

13. Mortgage: Notify the mortgage company and update the name on the policy

14. Post Office: Notify if an address change is required to forward mail.

15. Small Business Owners: If a buy-sell agreement was created, review the legal document to determine who will purchase your loved one’s interest; the business entity, other business owners, etc.

16. Social Media Contact: to memorialize or remove accounts, including email.

17. Social Security: Notify Social Security (800-772-1213), however, the mortuary may report your loved one’s passing on your behalf.
1. Social Security makes payments in advance and will send a letter either requesting funds be returned or stating funds will be deducted from a future payment.
2. If applicable, the surviving spouse may be eligible for a re-calculation of benefits. If you do not receive a re-calculation but think you are entitled to it, please contact social security.”

18. Subscriptions: Cancel newspaper and/or magazine subscriptions or simply let the subscription expire. You may want to review recent credit card statements to identify additional subscriptions.

19. Trust: If you do not have a trust and live in CA, you should consider creating one to avoid probate.
Deed: Update the title on the deed to your home by asking your trust attorney to file an ‘affidavit death of trustee’.
Death Certificate – Original
Power of Attorney: Update the power of attorney with an alternate representative
Trust Attorney
Health Care Directive: Update the health care directive with an alternate representative
Trust Attorney
Review Trusts should be reviewed and possibly updated every 5 years
Trust Attorney

20. Veterans: Notify the Department of Veteran Affairs at 800-827-1000 to determine if there is a death benefit such as assistance with burial costs.

21. Utilities: Surprisingly, it is incredibly difficult to change the name on utilities such as Cable, Garbage, PG&E, Phone (mobile and landline), Water, Wifi, etc. that some do not move forward with updating the account. However, please be mindful of needing a ‘proof of address’ in the future for the remaining residents.
Cell Phone Cancel coverage and inquire about the best plan options for the surviving spouse.

22. Will: An original Will should be submitted to the county. Once received, the county will return a stamped copy from the courts as a receipt. If you have a trust, this can be done by your trust attorney.
Original Will with ink signature

***Please note that this list may not be complete nor is every suggestion applicable to all since every loved one has a unique situation***