Five Things to Know NOW Before a Loved One Dies

By Gail Rubin, CT ~

Whether a death in the family is expected or a total surprise, you need certain pieces of information about the people you love in order to fill out a death certificate. Gather up and keep this information in an easy-to-find file to make it easier to move through the end-of-life formalities required by federal and state governments.

One: Social Security Number
Sure, you know your own Social Security number, and you may know the numbers for your spouse/partner and kids. But do you have access to the numbers for your parents, your siblings, or other relatives if you were called upon to take care of their final arrangements?

Two: Mother’s Maiden Name
This may seem simple, but over the course of time, you may lose track of each of your parents’ mothers’ maiden name or spelling. For example, while reconfirming with my dad about his mother’s last name before she married my grandfather, oops, I had misspelled it!

Three: Place of Birth
Sure, you know where you were born. But do your spouse/partner and kids know? Do you know your parents’ birthplaces? If you moved around a lot as a kid, were your siblings born in different cities? Just as the birthplace city and state is important on a birth certificate, it’s vital for a death certificate.

Four: Veteran Information
Those who served in the U.S. military can get free burial benefits for both the veteran and his or her spouse worth thousands of dollars. These benefits include a burial plot or cremation niche, headstone, opening and closing the grave or niche, and military funeral services. The benefit can also cover dependent minors.
You’ll need to provide a form called a DD214. It includes the veteran’s service number, military branch, wars fought, service time and discharge information. Do you know where that information is kept?
Note that this benefit only applies to the cemetery part of a funeral. The casket, obituary costs, and fees for the services of a funeral home still need to be paid by the veteran’s family.

Five: Online Passwords
This isn’t needed for death certificates, but with so much of our lives online protected by passwords, when someone dies, if you don’t know his/her passwords, you may not be able to access or shut down any online or cell phone accounts. Internet Service Providers will not give you this information unless you present a death certificate for the account holder. Make a master list of your online passwords and their associated accounts for future reference.

Keep this information with your will, advance medical directives, insurance information and other important documents. Download a free planning form from and get it together today!

About Gail Rubin, CT
Gail Rubin, Certified Thanatologist, is a pioneering death educator who uses humor, funny film clips and outside the box activities to get people to plan ahead for our 100% mortality rate. She coordinates Before I Die Festivals and is a Certified Funeral Celebrant, an award-winning speaker, and author of A Good Goodbye: Funeral Planning for Those Who Don’t Plan to Die and Kicking the Bucket List: 100 Downsizing and Organizing Things to Do Before You Die. Download a free Executors Checklist and planning form from her website,

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