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Visiting the Workplace

There are several issues that may need to be resolved at the Deceased’s place of employment: understanding insurance benefits placed through them, securing the last paycheck, finalizing a 401(k) plan or other retirement benefits and enrolling in COBRA are issues that may need to be addressed.

Approaching the Deceased’s employer can be difficult. The Deceased’s co-workers are likely grieving just like the family and it may be difficult for everyone to complete paperwork and discuss benefits. The Deceased may have spent a large part of their life at their workplace and with their co-workers. Be prepared for an outpouring of support from former co-workers. Though it will be difficult, consider visiting the Deceased’s workplace to see and meet people who were part of the Deceased’s work life. While there, you may want to clean out the deceased’s desk, fill out paperwork for human resources, and speak to close friends or colleagues of the deceased who are also grieving.

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Collecting a Last Paycheck:

Most employers have specific policies that cover procedures after the death of an employee that include distributing the Deceased’s last paycheck. Simply calling the human resources representative at the Deceased’s workplace should be enough to find out what information and procedures may be required. In many cases, the Deceased’s salary may already be direct deposited in their account. If so, you may want to place a call to the HR representative to confirm when the last deposit will/was made and to learn if you need to sign any forms or go through any closing procedures.

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Insurance / Retirement Funds:

Another topic to cover with the HR representative is about insurance benefits that the family may receive. In addition to receiving a life insurance policy, the family of the Deceased may be entitled to continuing health care coverage through the Deceased’s employer, known as COBRA, as well as payments from any annuity, pension or other retirement fund that was created.

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The Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA) was enacted in 1986 to help families who lose their health insurance due to mostly unexpected circumstances. Those who experience such circumstances, including death, have the option to temporarily extend the health coverage they were receiving through the Deceased’s workplace.

There are three specific qualifications for COBRA:

  1. The employer of the Deceased must have a group health plan in place and have 20 or more employees (part-time or full-time) on more than half of the business days in the previous calendar year. The employee must also be enrolled in the health plan prior to the event that would cause a lapse in coverage.
  2. There must be qualified beneficiaries who are covered by the group health plan. Qualified beneficiaries include spouses of employees and dependent children of employees. Any children that are born or adopted while covered by COBRA are automatically covered.
  3. To be eligible for coverage, a “qualified event” must take place. The specific event determines the length of coverage and the qualified beneficiaries under COBRA. There are many qualifying events, including the death of an employee.

To receive health insurance benefits under COBRA, contact the Deceased’s HR representative to get specific information about how to apply. There are three initial steps in the COBRA process:

  1. The Deceased’s employer needs to notify the health plan administrators within 30 days of the Deceased’s death. (Follow up with the HR representative to be sure they sent notification of the death.)
  2. The surviving family will then be sent a notice to opt into coverage within 14 days and must have it returned with a decision about whether or not to continue coverage within 60 days.
  3. The first insurance premium is then due within 45 days of opting in to coverage. The insurance premium will generally be more than what the employee was originally paying, because the Deceased’s employer does not contribute to COBRA premiums.

Other important information to consider:
COBRA offers the same benefits to the family of the Deceased as were available during the Deceased’s life. Often families will need to pay the insurance premiums, but they remain on the same health plan.

COBRA coverage can last up to 36 months for the employee’s beneficiaries, but may be terminated early for a number of reasons including failure to pay premiums. It’s important to check with the former employer or the Department of Labor to determine how long your coverage might last.At the end of the 36 months, the beneficiaries might be offered individual coverage from the same insurance provider. Beneficiaries may also qualify for a Federal income tax credit for some of the insurance premiums paid.

For more information about COBRA, contact the Deceased’s employer or consult the United States Department of Labor at 1-866-487-2365 or dol.gov.

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