Two weeks before my husband died, we made our last trip together to Virginia, where his family is from (we live in MD). He knew that it would be his last time so I finally agreed to make funeral arrangements. I never liked it but it's something I had to do, to give him the best of everything 'till the end. He had picked out the songs that he wanted to be played, Bible verses to be read, the church, pastors, pall bearers if his navy friends wouldn't be able to attend in uniforms (which they did, flew to Va. from all over the US). I asked his friends if they could speak at his memorial service and some of them volunteered. My husband has 4 sisters and all of them were in-charged of something; catering, making sure that all the pall bearers were coming in uniform, flowers, every detail needed.
For insurance, IRA's it will be paid to the beneficiary, it doesn't matter what the "will" states and if the benefiacy is a minor, the money will go in a trust. If your dad and mom owns a house and the title has "right of survivorship", it will go directly to your mother. In the state of Maryland, you don't need to open up a estate if the assets is less than $30,000, all you need is a "Letter of Administration" which you could get from your court house (cheaper than talking to a lawyer).
Social Security pays $255 (think it's called "burial benefit"). Get at least 10 copies of Death Certificates, you would need it. Close all accounts; bank, credit cards, etc.
It has been 4 mos. since my husband passed away and I'm still doing paper works.
When that time comes, it would be very difficult to function but you have to be very strong, don't fall apart. With the help and support of my sisters-in-law, we were able to give my husband a very beautiful memorial service. He would have been proud. I fell apart coming back home to an empty house (My husband was buried in Va) but I had to get myself together for my girls and I had to start making calls!
Agencies to call; Social Security, Insurance agents, Banks, IRA's, for militaries- Department of Veterans Affairs, Dept. of Defense, Tri care, SGLI, VGLI, get a new ID card. Get the "WILL" probated if needed, call your court house for help or hire a lawyer. Talk to your CPA, regarding taxes. For spouses that are left behind, if the husband or wife was listed as your beneficiaries, you have to make changes. A good book to have is Suze Orman's "Women and Money".