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Dealing with the death of a loved one is never a fun thing. And even worse is when you unexpectedly have to plan for that person’s funeral and manage their estate.
A few weeks ago, my wife and I lost one of our parents.
It was actually a little over 2 years ago that we lost the spouse of this parent. Then with the news of the other parent passing, it has made for a difficult couple of years.
As our family has spent a lot of time grieving, we have also been tasked as the executor of their estate. Since both parents have passed, the duties have been passed down to my wife and I to handle.
We are honored to fulfill these responsibilities … but that doesn’t mean things have been easy.
For example, we had to spend almost $10,000 of our emergency fund on expenses for their estate. We will eventually get this money back, but still needed to come up with a bunch of money in a short amount of time.
Another thing we had to help with was filling out the death certificate of the parent who recently passed. This may sound like no big deal … but it actually was a bit stressful!
Filling Out the Death Certificate of a Loved One
One of the responsibilities we got after our parent had passed away … was to help answer questions to fill out their death certificate.
The death certificate was filled out by the funeral home, but we needed to provide details about the life of our parent.
Sounds simple right?
For the most part, we knew a lot of the information. Things like name, gender, and even SSN were pretty straight forward.
But as we went down the list of questions, we started to panic. Things like mother’s middle name or worse maiden name needed to be filled out.
We really had nobody to turn to ask the questions we didn’t know. Both parents had passed … along with their parents (our grandparents) and any siblings, etc.
The reality was we were the only remaining survivors of our parents family tree.
Fortunately, we were able to search and find our parents birth certificates … which had the information we needed.
But what if that wasn’t an option? I’m sure we would have figured something out … but why should we have to go through this hassle?
Information We Needed for Our Parent’s Death Certificate
Based on the state in which our parent passed away in, we needed to answer the following questions for the death certificate –
- Legal Name – First, Middle, Last
- Date of Death
- Date of Birth
- Birth City, County, State, Country
- Armed Forces
- Name Prior to First Marriage
- Last Recidence – address, zip, city, county, state, country
- Surving Spouse (if necessary) – first, middle, maiden name, last
- Fathers first name, middle, last, suffix
- Mothers first name, middle, maiden, suffix
- Education Level
Some of this personal data is probably obvious like – legal name, gender, age, etc.
However, if you don’t have access to a tax return or similar documents … you may not know the SSN of a parent. Or what about the exact date of birth?
Where were your parents born? This would include – city, county, state, and country.
Or what about your father’s father middle name? My wife and I had no clue what our parents father’s middle name was.
This exercise may seem a little silly to you … it did to me at first. But think about a situation when you are grieving and upset about losing a loved one. You don’t want to be searching trying to find where a parent or uncle was born.
That is why my wife and I are now including these details in our estate planning checklist.
Planning for Our Estate
All the while we have been going through the estate of our parents, my wife and I have been setting up our own estate plan.
We recently met with a lawyer to have the following estate plan documents created for our family –
- Last Will and Testament
- Revocable Living Trust
- Health Care Directive
- Financial Power of Attorney
In addition, we have been working on a “when I die” document that lists all of our different financial accounts. This list includes – checking and savings accounts, investment accounts, credit cards, etc.
We have also included a monthly budget of all our recurring expenses (like Netflix, Hulu, cell phones, etc.) and which accounts these are paid from. I’d like to think this would be very helpful for whomever is in charge of our affairs when my wife or I pass away.
I’m sure you’ve probably figured out what other document we will be adding to this collection of documents?
Yep … we plan to include specific details about my wife and I … and probably our children that would provide information that could be used to fill out a death certificate.
I know it sounds morbid talking about it.
But looking back at our current situation and following through as executors on our parents estate … this would have saved my wife and I a ton of time and stress.
I strongly believe in keeping these types of documents for my wife and I (and the rest of our family). However, I also suggest keeping them in a secured location … whether it be electronic or physical. With so much personal information (like SSN) … it should be obvious that you need to keep it secure.
Note – When I say that my wife and I are both the executors of our parents estate … I am simply implying that we are both working together to settle the estate. Only one of us is actually named as the official executor while the other one of us is participating to help the other out.
What other information would you recommend keeping on file in order to fill out documents like a dealth certificate?