Survivor Checklist

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Mercer County Surrogate’s Office

Diane Gerofsky, Surrogate

A Survivor’s Checklist


  • Get a legal pronouncement of death.
  • If person dies at home under  hospice care, call the hospice nurse, who can declare the death and help facilitate transport of the body
  •  Arrange for transportation of the body.  If no autopsy is needed, the body can be picked up by a mortuary or crematorium
  •  Notify the decedent’s doctor or the county coroner
  • Notify close family and/or friends of the deceased
  •  Notify clergy
  • Notify employer
  • If deceased cared for dependents and pets make immediate arrangements for their care
  • Look for records of the deceased person’s desire to donate organ or tissue.  Give this information to the deceased’s doctor or hospice
  • Look for any written instructions for funeral or service arrangements, and burial or cremation arrangements.  Look to see if the deceased named a “Designated Agent” to take care of these arrangements.  Look for any prepaid services, such as a burial service or cremation

Within a few days

  •  If “Designated Agent” meet with funeral director to arrange the funeral and prepare an obituary

    The funeral home will need the following information:

    • Deceased’s first, middle and last name
    • Deceased’s maiden name (if applicable)
    • Deceased’s home address
    • Deceased’s social security number 
    • Deceased’s date of birth
    • Deceased’s age
    • Deceased’s date of death
    • Deceased’s gender
    • Race/ethnicity
    • Marital status
    • Spouse’s first and last name
    • Deceased’s highest level of education attained
    • Deceased’s occupation
    • Deceased’s place of birth (city and state)
    • Deceased’s father ‘s name Birth city, Birth state
    • Deceased’s mother’s name, Birth city, Birth state


                                                      If the deceased was a veteran

    • Entered service date
    • Entered service place
    • Service number
    • Separated from service date
    • Separated from service place
    • Grade, rank or rating
    • Organization and branch of service


  • If deceased was in the military or belonged to a fraternal or religious group, contact the organization.  It may have burial benefits or conduct funeral services
  • Call the deceased’s employer, if working, and request information about benefits and any pay due.  Ask whether there was a life insurance policy through the company
  • Order certified copies of the death certificate from the funeral director.  You will need one certified copy for each major asset (cars, land, bank accounts, insurance policies, veterans’ survivor benefits and annuities)
  • Arrange for headstone
  • Organize a post-funeral gathering


After Funeral


  • Find the deceased’s important papers
  • Locate safety deposit box to see if important papers such as Will, final Instructions or cemetery plot deed

    If there is a Will notify the executor (personal representative) named in the Will so that the Will may be entered into probate in the Surrogate’s Court of the county where the deceased resided.  Give the executor all of the important papers

    If no Will contact the Surrogate’s Court of the county where the deceased resided to see who has the first right to do an administration

  • □ Locate other important papers and documents (this is usually the duty of the executor/administrator)
    • Deeds, Titles and Promissory Notes/Loans
    • Real estate property
    • Mortgage documents
    • Promissory notes
    • Vehicle titles/registrations
    • Membership certificates
    • Insurance policies   

      Life insurance

      Accidental life insurance

      Veterans’ insurance

      Employer or pension insurance

      Funeral insurance

      Mortgage and/or credit insurance

      Credit card insurance

      Health insurance

      Property insurance

      Workers’ compensation insurance

    • Financial accounts

          Bank accounts

          Investment/brokerage accounts IRA, 401k’s

          Stocks and Bonds


          Credit and debit card accounts

          User names and passwords for any online account

          List of safety deposit boxes with keys and names of authorized users

    • Other financial records

                                      Survivor annuity benefit papers

                                      Employer/retirement benefit plans, pension/profit sharing plans

                                      Veteran’s benefit records

                                      Disability payment documents

                                      Income statement for current year

                                      IRS income tax returns

      IRS gift tax returns

                                      Property Tax returns (for all years)

                                      Business interests held, financial statements and agreements and contracts

                                      Loan papers

                                      Investment records

    • Legal papers

                      Will and/or Trusts

                      Deceased’s final instructions

                      Prepaid funeral contracts

                                      Organ/tissue donation record

                                      Social security card

                                      Birth certificate (of all family members)

                                      Marriage license or certificate

                                      Military service papers

                                      Court documents for adoptions and divorce

                                      Community property agreements

                                      Driver’s license

                                      Passport, citizenship, immigration and/or alien registration papers

    • Personal Information

Names and contact information of closest family and friends

Names and contact information of lawyers, accountants, doctors

Family tree

User names and passwords for online accounts

Passwords to access computers, cell phones and other electronic devices


Practical Steps For The Executor/Administrator


  •  Locate and review all unpaid bills

        Regular monthly bills





       Cable TV internet

       Cell phones




      Long term debts

       Home Mortgage

      Bank Line of Credit

       Car Loans

       Rental payments



       Assisted living

       Nursing Home

       Credit cards



       Long term care



       Life insurance

       Property taxes

  • Locate last 4 years of tax returns for tax return filings
  • Access to Bank Accounts
  • Get a EIN (Estate Identification Number) from IRS to open estate checking account and use for estate filings
  • Check and take care of the deceased’s home  (removing perishables), property and cats
  • Put valuables in a safe place
  • Contact Post Office for forwarding information
  • Stop all unneeded newspaper deliveries
  • Cancel any appointments for doctors, dentist
  • Cancel services that are no longer needed

            Cell phone


            Cable TV

  • Do not cancel utilities until no longer needed
  • Give notice of death to all the above as soon as possible
  • Check and apply for any death benefits or survivors benefits
  • Contact social Security Administration and other government office
  • Notify the Registrar of Voters
  • Contact Motor Vehicles to cancel deceased’s driver’s license and transfer titles of all registered                  


  • Notify all 3 credit reporting agencies and get copy of credit report
  • Send acknowledgements cards for flowers, donations, food, kindness, pallbearers
  • Organize and distribute decedents personal belongings according to Will or memorandum
  • Contact a tax preparer.  Keep monthly bank statements on all individual and joint accounts that show account balance on the day of death.

Important Contact Information

Department of Veteran’s Affairs - 1-800-827-1000                       

Social Security Administration -1-800-772-1213

Credit Reporting Agencies

                                Equifax                   1-800-685-1111        

                                Trans Union          1-800-888-4213         

                                Experian               1-888-397-3742            


Mercer County Surrogate  (for Probate of Will or Administration of the estate)

* Decedent was a resident of Mercer County at time of death



Estate Identification Number (EIN)