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Whom Do I Notify After the Death of a Loved One?

tombstones in a cemetery

Most citizens of the Reading-Berks County area are aware that preparations for death are emotional and difficult. Attorney Scott C. Painter, P.C., is an expert in wills, trusts, estate planning, and power of attorney. Another responsibility after a loved one passes is to contact government agencies and programs, as well as investigate possible death benefits provided by the federal government. Here is the latest advice from, with additional links for more information.

After someone dies, notify the government programs and businesses they used. Cancel benefits payments and close or transfer accounts.

Government agencies and programs to notify of a death

You’ll need the person’s Social Security number and certified copies of their death certificate for most agencies and programs.

The funeral director should report the death to the Social Security Administration (SSA) for you. If they do not, you must do this as soon as possible.

  • SSA will notify Medicare.
  • Any Social Security benefits the person was receiving will stop.
  • You must return any payment for the month the person died.
  • You can ask about Social Security survivors benefits when you call.

Contact the state motor vehicles office to:

  • Cancel the person’s license or ID
  • Transfer the title of a vehicle the person owned

You must file the person’s final income tax return(s). Include all unreported income the person earned up to their date of death.

You can return the person’s passport to the Department of State (DOS) for cancellation. (See “How do I cancel the passport of a deceased relative?” for instructions.)

  • This helps prevent identity theft.
  • The DOS will send the canceled passport back if you want it or they can destroy it.

Contact thstate social services office to cancel payments for benefit programs. These may include:

  • SNAP (food stamps)
  • TANF (welfare)
  • Rental assistance
  • Medicaid

Contact the local election office to cancel the person’s voter registration. This helps prevent voter fraud.

If the person was a veteran, you can contact the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) about:

  • Burial benefits
  • Death benefits and survivor benefits
  • Veterans life insurance 

You must notify the VA to cancel these benefits:

  • Compensation
  • Pension
  • Education
  • Health

Report a military retiree’s death to the Defense Finance and Accounting Service (DFAS). They will:

  • Stop monthly pension payments
  • Send forms for the Survivor Benefit Plan if the person was enrolled

Contact the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) to:

OPM will help process any annuity due to survivors.

If the person died outside of the United States, notify the U.S. embassy or consulate in the country where the person died. They can help you communicate with local authorities and help with arrangements and documents. Learn more about how embassies can help following an American citizen’s death in a foreign country.

Financial institutions and other organizations to notify of a death

Report the person’s death to banks, credit card companies, credit bureaus, and other financial organizations. And contact utilities and places where the person had memberships and subscriptions. Learn from the Federal Trade Commission what to do about any debts the person had.

Death benefits from the government

After a family member’s death, you may be eligible for death benefits from the government. These can include:

  • Survivor payments
  • Educational or housing help
  • Military honors
  • COVID-19 burial reimbursement. 

Use USAGov’s benefits locator tool to find benefits you might qualify for.

Click here to view our videos about the various issues Attorney Painter can help you with.

The law office of elder law attorney Scott C. Painter, P.C., is located in Wyomissing (outside of Reading, PA, in Berks County,) and offers trusted legal services in the areas of elder law, including nursing home planning, trust and estate services, and veterans benefits. Scott C. Painter is a Certified Elder Law Attorney (CELA®), and he is also a member of the National Association of Elder Law Attorneys (NAELA). 

If you have an issue or question, we encourage you to call us. With legal matters, time is of the essence. Call us for a consultation at 610-378-5140. The $300 consultation fee is waived if Attorney Painter is retained to perform services.