Office of Decedent Affairs
Financial and Legal Concerns
The event of a death results in an automatic transfer of both assets and debts from the decedent to another party, possibly you, depending upon your relationship with the deceased person. The information below will help begin the process of defining financial and legal matters. If you have other questions or concerns, please consult an attorney or financial advisor.
Contact Social Security Administration to apply for death benefits as soon as possible. This will help make sure that the family receives all benefits to which they may be entitled. Possible benefits include:
- A one-time payment of $255 (as of 2007) can be paid to the surviving spouse if he or she was living with the deceased or, if living apart, was receiving certain Social Security Benefits on the decedent’s record. An eligible child may receive this benefit if there is no surviving spouse. Check with SSA to determine eligibility.
- Certain family members may be eligible to receive monthly benefits, such as:
- Surviving spouse age 60 or older
- Surviving spouse age 50 or older, if disabled
- Surviving spouse at any age who is caring for the decedent’s child under age 16 or disabled (income restrictions)
- Surviving child younger than age 18, or age 18 or 19 but still a full-time student at an elementary or secondary school
- Surviving child age 18 or older with a disability that began before age 22
- Surviving spouse age 60 or older
You may be eligible for limited assistance from Veterans Administration toward burial costs and funeral expenses if the decedent was an honorably discharged veteran.
If the decedent was receiving monthly payments already, you need to notify the VA of the death. The surviving spouse and dependent children of disabled veterans may be entitled to a lump sum of money, monthly payments, and possibly educational and medical assistance.
When filing paperwork, you will need several copies of the death certificate. You can obtain copies of the death certificate from the County Clerk’s Office in the county in which the decedent died. UMHS is located in Washtenaw County. The Washtenaw county Clerk/Register of Deeds Office can be contacted at 734-222-6720 or www.ewashtenaw.org/government .
The funeral director or your local county office can assist with the process, as well.
Funeral expense hardship
If you find yourself without any benefits, with little or no savings and/or income, you may be eligible for help through various resources. Social Security Administration, State Emergency Relief and Veterans Administration offer assistance in many circumstances.
However, another source of help is through your local Department of Human Services. DHS offers emergency burial services for financially eligible individuals. Please contact your local DHS to learn more about this option and to determine if you will be eligible. Check your local telephone book under “State Government” for the DHS office nearest you. You may also check http://www.michigan.gov/dhs for additional information, as well as current financial eligibility requirements.
Other Financial and Legal Concerns
- Check all life and casualty insurance benefits, including Social Security, credit unions, trade unions, places of employment and fraternal organizations. Ask about possible income from all these sources.
- Promptly check on all the decedent’s debts and installment payments. Some may carry insurance clauses that cancel future payments. Also, if there will be a delay in meeting any payments, notify the creditors and make arrangements for additional time.
- Notify insurance companies such as, life, automobile, home, etc.
- If the decedent was employed by the Civil Service Commission, you can apply for benefits at any federal agency.
The following papers may be necessary when filing for various benefits and taking care of financial matters:
- Death certificate
- Marriage certificate (available at the county clerk where the marriage license was issued).
- Birth certificates for the decedent and all dependent children (available at either the state or county public records office where the person was born).
- Social Security numbers for the decedent, spouse and dependent children.
- Discharge papers, if the decedent was a veteran. If you cannot locate the discharge papers write to: National Personnel Records Center, 9700 Page Boulevard, St. Louis, MO 63132-5200. Send the request to the attention of the branch of service in which the decedent served.
- Original will. The will may be in the decedent’s personal belongings or with the attorney who originally wrote the will.
- Recent income tax returns (if not readily available, you must complete IRS Form 4506, and attach documentation that you are authorized to act on behalf of decedent).
- List of decedent’s property and assets (examples: real estate, stocks, bonds, bank accounts, deeds and personal property).
The American Association of Retired Persons Web site’s “Grief and Loss” section also is a good source of information.