I had just joined this site last week as it became clear that I needed to begin finding answers to help care for my aging parents, especially my mother. So many people posted responses to my question, which I unfortunately was unable to respond to because I had to rush to my parents' hometown to be by mother's side in her final hours. There are so many questions that I now have, what institutions must I notify of her death? Is it easier to just call and cancel credit cards memberships as if I am her so I don't have to present proof of death? How to navigate her Medicare and secondary health care to figure out if we owe anything to the hospital?

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I'm so sorry for your loss. Take a deep breath. Almost nothing needs to be done immediately. Give yourself some time to grieve.

If you are going to use a lawyer to settle the estate, you are going to have a lot of help from people who do this all the time. The only advice I have is to keep good records. Set up a filing system and have her mail redirected to you. Google "Notification of Death" letter. As mail comes in from various accounts, you can send a letter to them. Get a bunch (like a dozen) death certificates but only send them if the account won't accept a copy of the death certificate. A notarized certificate costs some money.

Depending on the date of death, if your mom was receiving social security they may want this month's payment back. That surprises a lot of people. So don't close her checking and savings accounts or spend all the money right away. My other advice is don't pay any of her bills right away. There are rules about who gets paid and in what order. The funeral home has first place and then any creditors, including health care providers, line up in back of them. A lawyer can help.

I am a worrywart so I would put a freeze on her credit accounts until I was able to close them all. But that's probably not necessary. I'm so sorry for your loss.
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I'm sorry for the loss of your mom.

Regarding her credit cards, don't call them. After my dad died I did this in the interest of trying to do the right thing and it turned into a disaster. Send a letter to each credit card company stating that your mom has passed away and that all future communications should be made in writing. Don't give them your phone number. Include the account number on each letter along with your mom's date of birth.
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I'm in the process of this now; hopefully I can offer some suggestions for you, but first, I am so sorry for the loss of your mother. It must have been quite a shock for you, and now you're faced with the many changes that need your attention. But please take time out as you need it to grieve and refocus.

1. Institutions. The funeral director gave me a form re notification of SS. I notified them and Medicare (although I was told that SS notified Medicare). I also provided a change of address so the EOBs would come to me.

I haven't been able to reach the VA b/c the voice mail prompts weren't working properly, so I haven't yet notified them to d/c service connected disability payments. One already came through; one of the bankers said they might be able to refund it through their systems.

2. I called and notified banking and mutual fund institutions which hold funds; each would have required a death certificate, but the mutual funds holders found it in public records before I had a chance to send one. I was co-signer on banking checking and savings accounts, so that also was addressed by phone.

The bank will require a certified copy of the Death Certificate to create a trust account. That can be faxed to the Estates Department which handles our credit cards, so I don't need to provide a certified copy directly to that department.

I was already getting most of the bills, but I did notify others so that all future bills would be sent to me. And I cancelled the medical accounts (Medicare, BCBSM, AARP Dental). They don't need death certificates. Neither did the utilities.

Any pension fund or retirement account holders need to be notified. When my sister died, I had the worst time with them. The State was very, very difficult to work with. I documented everything I did, but I even wrote down the times I spoke with someone from the State!

If there are any loans, the lender should be notified, and probably will want a Death Certificate. You might do this in writing when you send a DC, indicating that the family is evaluating what action to take on the loans, which would apply to any mortgages, equity line, car loans, etc. Give them notice up front so they're aware the there may be transitions on these accounts, after you decide what to do with them (i.e., sell the car, etc.)

2. Credit cards. I had no problem notifying the holder, although I was unprepared for freezing action on the cards even though I'm a joint signer. So I'm paying the bills through my own accounts until I can be reimbursed through the Trust funds. Credit department of our bank wants a Death Cert; but it's the same as our bank so I'll just ask one of the bankers to fax the Death Cert to the credit card department.

It's interesting that Eyerishlass had an unfortunate experience with her father's credit cards. Whenever I call on a credit card issue, I'm directed to the Estates Department and no conversation takes place at all until I'm read a disclaimer that the bank will not be seeking funds from me, only from the Estate. They're quite insistent on advising that no action will be sought to recover funds from me personally.

4. On a lower level, besides changing the mail address, what you can do is ask that the mail be "held" (use the yellow "HOLD" card) for a period of up to 10 days while the change of address (specific form) is in process. There may be an overlapping period of the hold and change periods, but when I get the forwarded mail I'll know it's in effect, then I'll pick up the "held" mail.

This avoids mail sitting in an empty mailbox and possibly getting stolen.

5. Magazine subscriptions and similar non first class mail vendors should be notifed as well; they don't need a Death Certificate. Some may ask if you want the magazines forwarded to you, or just terminated.

6. Besides family and friends, I also called Meals on Wheels immediately so that meals wouldn't be delivered.

7. Was your mother a member of any clubs (quilting, etc.) or on membership lists for any kind of special interest group? They can be notified by phone. Same with religious institutions.

8. When you start getting her Medicare and any secondary payer EOB (Explanation of Benefits), you can determine if there will be any outstanding charges not covered by insurance, then ask for itemized bills from those providers.

BCBSM no longer provides EOBs unless there are charges owed, so I had to ask for duplicate EOBs for the last quarter, just so I had them for my records.

9. I did find bills from a medication supplier and the facility doctor who bills directly. And they were in the held mail, so time periods could have been affected.

Did your mother pass in a facility of any kind - rehab, AL, IL? If so, ask their billing staff what entities might be billing directly. For me it was a surprise as the billers at the SNF weren't aware of who might be billing directly (I found this a bit unusual, but by that time my father was on Palliative Care and the billing focus changed from their keeping itemized records to more flat rate bills, other than for the meds and doctor.

Hope this helps. And remember to take breaks and document all the calls; a few weeks later I'm starting to wonder if I missed any one and still need to make calls.
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As I reread my post, I was struck by the number of times I used the "I did this or that". The post seems very self centered. It wasn't intended to be that; it was how I could explain my experiences.

At this point, there are so many "I s" that I'm just letting them go. Just know that I wasn't trying to focus on what I did and everything was about me - it was just what experiences I had.

And lastly, for notifying out of state friends who generally only communicate with Christmas cards, the plan is to include an annual letter. Contacting by phone would probably be time consuming, especially since so many people use cell instead of land lines and I probably couldn't find those numbers anyway.
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I'm so sorry for your loss As already mentioned  take time for yourself  before handling her last finances 
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