Possible Concerns to Consider: A Road Map
Every family’s situation is different. However, some common concerns may arise, many of which you may not have anticipated. We can help connect you with resources to address the following:
If Children are involved:
- Counseling/trauma assessment
- Medical care if needed
- Determining family placement if possible
- Establishing power of attorney for caregiver
- Social Services/Placement
- School notification
Adults often fail to communicate with children by either ignoring them when they are preoccupied with their own issues or hoping to protect them from unnecessary trauma. The children, in turn, fear adding to their caretakers’s pain and simply withdraw. Children who witness the killing of someone they love experience profound emotional trauma, including post traumatic stress disorder, and may not readily receive adequate intervention.
Furthermore, children who report having to perform tasks associated with the fatal injury, such as telephoning for police or emergency medical services, or responding to the immediate needs of the injured person or the perpetrator, are often traumatized. When the issue of blame or accountability for the death is not resolved through police investigation, children may re-examine their behavior, believing that if they had done something differently, they could have prevented the death. Without support and an opportunity to explore the feasibility of such alternatives, children often continue to blame themselves unnecessarily.
Connection with the coroner/medical examiner re: location of loved one’s body,
Establishing counseling/grief resources
Crime scene security/clean up after the investigation concludes
- May be paid through home owner’s insurance
- May submit for crime victims’ compensation
Crime victim compensation – crime scene clean up, loss of support, medical
expenses, counseling expenses, funeral expenses, lost wages, homemaker services,
property held as evidence
Criminal investigation process
Co-victims of homicide have a vested interest in participating in the criminal or juvenile justice system and understanding the complex issues of a cumbersome legal system.
- How is the case going to be prosecuted?
- What are the charges?
Employment – notify your supervisor, contact the Human Resource department
regarding leave needed for yourself
- If your loved one was working, you’ll need to call his or her employer immediately.
Ask about the deceased’s benefits and any pay due, including vacation or sick time,
disability income, etc. Ask if you or other dependents are still eligible for benefit
coverage through the company. Ask whether there is a life insurance policy through the
employer, who the beneficiary is and how to file a claim.
Evidence – how to reclaim loved one’s property, timeframes
Financial/Legal matters – An attorney and accountant may be able to help with the
- Child placement/termination of parental rights
- Planning for costs associated with funeral, burial, medical treatment, psychiatric care for family members
- Establishing memorial/scholarship fund through bank
- Estate planning
- Life insurance
- Accessing bank accounts- If you have a joint account with the deceased
you may be able to conduct business as usual, depending upon how the account was
opened. Otherwise, normally only the will’s executor or administrator can access the
account after providing the required paperwork to the bank. Call or visit the bank to
find out what is required.
Funeral arrangements – the funeral director can help you with the following:
- transport the body
- obtain a death certificate
- select a casket, urn and/or grave marker
- arrange the funeral, memorial and/or burial service
- prepare the obituary
- help you notify the deceased’s employer, attorney, insurance company and banks
- offer grief support or direct you to other resources
Grieving process – stages and what to expect
Housing – temporary if needed
Life Insurance – Look through the deceased’s paperwork for the life policy. Call the
agent or the company and ask how to file a claim. Usually the beneficiary (or the
beneficiary’s guardian, if a minor) must complete the claim forms and related
paperwork. You’ll need to submit the death certificate and a claimant’s statement to
establish proof of claim. Remember to ask about payment options. You may have a
choice between receiving a lump sum or the having the insurance company place the
money in an interest-bearing account from which you can write checks.
Marriage – It is common for marital partners to have difficulty relating, and they may even separate after a family member’s homicide. Each partner may grieve differently. New caretakers to children left behind may experience added stress in marriage.
How to deal with the media, your rights (See “resources available” under “Get Help” tab)
Notification of family, friends, clergy
Papers: Find relevant documents, such as a will or trust. These may be in the safety
deposit box. Remember to gather other important papers, such as deeds, business
agreements, tax returns, bank accounts, earnings statements, birth and marriage
certificates, military discharge papers, Social Security Number, vehicle registration,
loan payment books, bills, and any other important papers pertaining to your loved
one’s affairs. You’ll need these to file a final tax return and settle the estate; you may
want to consult an accountant.
Religious faith: Questions for, anger at, and challenges to God surface regarding the reason for the death. How could a loving God allow it to happen? Where is the loved one? Some conclude, at least for a while, that “if there were a God, then God would not have let this happen. Since it happened, there must not be a God.” Other victims find their faith to be a source of strength, comfort, and resilience. Each victim must decide for himself or herself which beliefs will assist their recovery. Past religious beliefs may be insufficient to address the challenges faced in the aftermath of the homicide. Faithful co-victims seeking to understand sometimes look for answers from unorthodox sources. Over-simplistic comments and “answers” from clergy and church members sometimes are confusing or hurtful for co-victims who take their spiritual pilgrimage seriously and are seeking insight or solace from their faith.
Social Security – If your loved one was covered, the spouse or dependents may be
eligible for certain payments or benefits. Also call any unions, professional or service
organizations your loved one belonged to. He or she may have had life insurance or
other benefits through these organizations.
Wills: If you were named the executor of your loved one’s will, you’ve got more work
to do. First, you’ll need to file a probate case with the court. Although an attorney isn’t
required in most states, you’ll probably want to hire one who is experienced in probate.
You may choose to hire the lawyer who prepared the will, but that isn’t necessary.
Depending on the specifics of the estate, probate can be complicated and lengthy. As
executor, you’ll be responsible for carrying out your loved one’s wishes according to the
will, paying creditors and balancing the estate. There’s no standard amount of time a
probate lasts, but some states are initiating laws to expedite the process. If someone
dies without a will – dying intestate – the court will appoint an administrator. If you are
appointed administrator, your responsibilities will be similar to those of an executor:
distributing assets, paying creditors and balancing the estate.