Tag Archives: will

Death Certificates Primer

What is a Death Certificate?

Here at Cremation Society of America, one of the questions most often asked of us is how to order a Death Certificate and why is it required for Direct Cremation.

A Death Certificate is an official document that serves as certified proof that someone has passed away. This document will be necessary for families or loved ones to close accounts, access insurance benefits and take similar legal steps. Death Certificates are also used by governmental agencies to track demographic trends locally and nationwide.

How many Death Certificates do I need?

A family or loved one will need a certified copy of a Death Certificate to close any financial services account or claim any benefit such as insurance proceeds after a loved one passes away. Some companies will require an original to access benefits such as pensions, insurance proceeds or property transfer. Other companies or entities may only require a photocopy/image of the Death Certificate to serve as proof. A good rule of thumb is to expect an original Death Certificate will be require to settle legal issues and a copy may be sufficient to resolve other matters.

The number of death certificates a family needs will depend on the number of assets, benefits and accounts that have been left to them. We recommend that you contact each of the companies/entities involved to confirm whether the company/entity will accept only an original death certificate or a copy of the death certificate.

How do I order a Death Certificate?

Once the death has been registered, Death Certificates can be ordered from several entities, including:

The funeral home or Cremation provider that you choose
The state or county in which the person passed away
An online service such as VitalChek, a Lexis Nexis Company

There are two types of Death Certificates: Informational or Certified:

Informational copies can be ordered by anyone
To get a Certified copy, you must be closely related to the deceased
How long can I expect to wait to receive a Death Certificate?

There can be as many as four parties/entities/agencies involved in processing the first Death Certificate, which means that the time it takes to receive the Certificate may vary. You can expect a state agency to take 3 -6 weeks while a county agency may only take 2-4 weeks.

The following steps are typically required in order to produce a Death Certificate:

The family or Next of Kin provides certain information about the deceased to confirm identity
The primary care physician or attending physician confirms the cause of death to the funeral home or Cremation provider
The funeral home/Cremation provider registers the death in the applicable county or jurisdiction
The Death Certificates are printed and sent by the county or jurisdiction

The family and funeral home/Cremation provider typically provide their respective information within a day and don’t delay the process. If any delays are encountered, it’s usually with the physicians or the applicable county/jurisdiction.

We at Cremation Society of America do everything in our power to make the Death Certificate process as efficient as possible so that you and your family can address the matters at hand.

Call us today to request more information about our Direct Cremations or click here to order your Direct Cremation now using our industry-leading online ordering process.

Estate Planning – How to Get Organized

At Cremation Society of America, we see all-too-often clients who had failed to properly plan for the day that is inevitable for all of us: the day that we pass away. It’s never a pleasant subject and one that most of us would prefer to address at a later date. What happens if that “later date” never arrives?

Sound Estate Planning and gathering of your important documents might very well be the most appreciated final act that you could do for your family. Let’s explore some Estate Planning steps that you can take.

The Need for Estate Planning

Much like a Will, Estate Planning organizes the financial, legal and medical aspects of your life for those who will survive and succeed you. As a matter of fact, a Will is a component of a well-rounded Estate Plan.

As with anything pertaining to legal documents, we at Cremation Society of America strongly suggest that you consult with an attorney who specializes in estate planning and probate issues. This attorney has a fiduciary duty to give you the guidance and representation that you will need to put your estate in order.

Where to Begin?

The best place to start your estate-planning project is to take an inventory of everything of value that you may own,  possess or of which you have a stake or interest. Here are some items that you should include in your list:

  • Your Home/Deed
  • The Deeds to any properties/real estate that you Own
  • Retirement Plans, including 401(K), Pensions, Individual Retirement Accounts (“IRAs”), Social Security benefits, Stock Holdings, etc. – be sure to include any online login credentials needed to access these accounts online
  • Life Insurance Policies or any other vehicles that may pay out benefits upon your death – be sure to include any online login credentials needed to access these accounts online
  • Health Benefits including private insurance, pension benefits, Medicare, Medicaid, Veterans Administration Benefits – your spouse or family may be entitled to these benefits in the event of your death
  • Bank Accounts, Investment Accounts, Stocks, Bonds, etc. – be sure to include any online login credentials needed to access these accounts online
  • List all valuables – jewelry, art, etc.  Be sure to take pictures and keep the pictures in a safe deposit box or in a cloud storage solution that a family member can access.
  • All liabilities such as mortgages, loans, credit cards, anything for which you owe money and may lead to a creditor seeking repayment from your estate

Create or Update Legal Documents

Meet with your attorney to create or update legal documents that will further protect your estate upon your passing. Your attorney’s recommendations may include the following:

  • A Will – include an updated list of beneficiaries
  • Healthcare directives/documents such as Power-Of-Attorney and/or a Living Will
  • Creation of a Trust(s)

Arrange for Long-Term Care

Most people forget that you can also plan for your long-term medical care as part of your estate planning. YOU can set aside assets to pay for your medical, housing, nurse care and related costs up to point of your passing. Be sure to contact a health care planning professional to review your options.

Arrange for End Of Life

Pre-plan your end-of-life arrangements, whether burial or cremation, services, location, cemetery plot – everything that you want in place upon your death because these are questions that only YOU can answer.

Click the link below to download the Cremation Society of America Cremation Planning Guide

Make Sure Your Family can Access Everything that you Collected

All of the work you’ve done above will be for naught if you did not make arrangements for your loved ones to access all of the information that you’ve gathered in your inventory. Here are a few steps to keep in mind:

  • Maintain a list of all current usernames and passwords. Then, make sure that you place that list somewhere where your family or attorney can access it
  • Keep important and legal documents in a secure location such as a safe, vault or safe deposit box. You may also keep these documents with an attorney. Regardless of where you store the documents, be sure to give your family a way to access them
  • Periodically review your documents to keep them up-to-date

As you can see, Estate Planning is another way for you to enjoy peace of mind that your wishes will be honored after you’ve passed away. This is much the same way as how Pre-planning your Direct Cremation delivers peace of mind during a troubling time for your family and friends.

Please contact CSA for more information regarding our Cremations services as well as family resources. We look forward to being of service to you and your family.

Do I Need a Will?

At Cremation Society of America, a question that we’re often asked by clients is “Do I Need a Will?” We’d like to help you and your family consider some of the aspects of a Will and the end-of-life decisions that you may need to contemplate.

The Need for a Will

A Will makes for a more efficient and worry-free process for honoring your end-of-life wishes or those of a loved one. A Will also keeps your estate out of the probate system, which can lead to excessive taxes and arbitrary outcomes.

A Will is YOU Making Decisions After You’re Gone

As part of a Will, among other things, YOU determine:

  • Who Gets What?  You decide who will be the beneficiaries (the recipients) of your belongings, money, real estate, etc. A beneficiary can be anyone you designate – not just immediate family.  Money and inheritances can test the bonds of even the tightest family. A Will alleviates any danger of family battles over money, etc. Note: If you intend to name someone as a beneficiary in the Will, do NOT have that person serve as a witness of the Will. Witnesses are NOT legally permitted to be beneficiaries.
  • Who Makes Sure That the Will is Followed? You also decide who will serve as the Executor. The Executor, oftentimes an attorney, is responsible for “executing” you directions contained within the Will such as satisfying any debts, outstanding taxes and handing over to beneficiaries money, objects as you determine.
  • Who Will Care For Children or Dependents? In the case where you have dependent children and there is no spouse or ex-spouse to care for them, you can name a Guardian in your Will to assume your role as their parent. The same holds true in the case of a dependent – perhaps a parent or sibling who requires a caregiver. If you do not name a Guardian, the courts will wind up naming a Guardian. Don’t surrender your ability to name a Guardian. Use a Will.
  • Who Will Manage the Financial Needs of Children or Dependents? You can also name a Guardian of the Estate to carry out your wishes to ensure the financial well-being of your children or any dependents upon your death. This does NOT need to be the same person as the one named as the Guardian above. In fact, many Wills name a different person to manage the money. If the courts name a Guardian, that same Guardian will be appointed by the courts to manage the money for your children or dependents. if you do not want to leave that decision up to the courts, name the Guardian of the Estate in your Will.
  • You Add What YOU Want. Keep in mind that the Will can be as basic or elaborate as YOU deem appropriate to ensure that your wishes are met upon your death.
  • What Property Can I Include in my Will? You can – and should – direct the distribution/ownership of:
    • Property/Real Estate
    • Cash/Bank Accounts
    • Intangible Personal Property: Stocks, Bonds, Corporate Equity, etc.
    • Cars, Jewelry, Works of Art, Heirlooms, Clothing
    • Residuary Estate: These are items that don’t merit being itemized or listed separately. These items are turned over to a Residuary Beneficiary who will distribute the items where necessary. Make sure you leave instructions with the Residuary Beneficiary.
  • What Property Can I NOT Include in my Will? Here are examples of items that you cannot convey to beneficiaries:
    • Property that you own equally with another, such as a home owned with a spouse.
    • Trusts, Retirement Plans, Insurance Policies or any other vehicle that already stipulates beneficiaries.
    • Investments that have already designated recipients, such as stocks or bonds.
    • Your Online Accounts and Presence: This is a Big One! Most online media companies such as Google, Facebook, Twitter, etc will NOT grant your family access to YOUR online accounts. The best way to grant your family access is to save your access credentials to secure storage media and name a beneficiary in the Will. The beneficiary can then gain access to your accounts on your behalf. Your family will need these credentials to close the online accounts to prevent identity theft.

How Do I Get Started?

The number of online legal resources and services is truly amazing and you may be tempted to try to save money and time by utilizing an online service to draft a Will. We suggest that you engage an attorney who specializes in Wills to make sure that you cover all of your bases. Ask family or friends to recommend an Attorney and then meet with him/her in person. You will be entrusting to your Attorney literal “life and death” decisions. You should have a level of comfort with that Attorney before you sign any documents. Depending upon your financial holdings and the complexity of your estate, especially when there are trusts involved, you may also wish to engage an accountant and even a financial adviser.

An Attorney and/or Accountant can determine the most tax-efficient ways to structure your estate. The lower the tax obligation, the more money will be distributed to your beneficiaries.

Maintain Your Will

Once you’ve created and signed your Will, here are a few things you should do to maintain it:

  • Periodically review the beneficiaries and change when appropriate. Sometimes, beneficiaries pass away before you do or otherwise fall out of favor. Keep these up-to-date. The same holds true for the items to be distributed. If you sell a property, remove it from the Will.
  • Store it where it can be found. Store your Will in a safe or other secure-yet-accessible location. You can store it in a safe deposit box but make sure that someone else has a key and can otherwise gain access to the box. You can also have your Attorney keep your Will – just be sure to let your family know to contact your Attorney to retrieve your Will.

What Happens When I Die?

Now that your Will is in place, here is the chronology of events when you pass away:

Step 1:  The Executor presents the will to probate court.

Step 2:  The probate court acknowledges your Will and approves it. This process could take from 60 days to up to three years, depending on your state’s laws and the complexity of your estate. Check with your Attorney to get more details of the timeline. The probate court must approve your Will before it can be executed in accordance with your directions.

Step 3: The probate court approve your Will, which enables the Executor to distribute assets to Beneficiaries according to your wishes.

What If I Die Without A Will?

Without a Will, the probate court will likely hand over your assets to your closest surviving relatives. The same holds true for custody of children and/or dependents. Your estate will still have to go through the probate process, and “Intestacy laws”.

As you can see, there are many advantages to a Will and it will give you peace of mind that your wishes will be honored after you’ve passed away. This is much the same way as how Pre-planning your Direct Cremation delivers peace of mind during a troubling time for your family and friends.

Please contact CSA for more information regarding our Cremations services as well as family resources. We look forward to being of service to you and your family.