9 Financial Steps to Take After a Loved One Passes
The loss of a family member is difficult. You must cope with grief, plan a memorial service or funeral, and tend to final wishes. If the death was of a close family member, you also might need to make financial decisions for the estate. The process can be overwhelming. Here are nine financial steps to take when a loved one dies.
1. Ask for Help
Dealing with an estate can be complicated, and the average person has no experience or training in managing an estate. Trying to manage an estate while still grieving is especially challenging. If your loved one had a financial adviser, your first step is to contact them. If not, contact your financial adviser or an attorney for help.
2. Protect Physical Assets
Secure the home and make arrangements for regular tasks, such as watering the plants. If the loved one had roommates, arrange for them to move out. Remove any valuables from the property and arrange care for any pets.
3. Find Out About Existing Funeral and Burial Plans
If you've already discussed burial plans, you'll know what the deceased wanted. They may have already arranged and prepaid for a funeral. They also may have indicated their desires in writing, so, if you're unsure, look through their important papers. You can also call a family meeting to discuss wishes and meet with a funeral director or clergy person.
4. Get Several Copies of the Death Certificate
You'll need death certificates to deal with all the financial institutions where your loved one had accounts, including banks, brokerage firms, insurance companies, and service providers. The easiest way to obtain death certificates is from the funeral home. Order at least 20 and more than you think you'll need.
5. Begin the Probate Process
If your loved one has a will, it will need to be filed in probate court. The will generally names an executor in charge of handling the estate and distributing assets according to the loved ones' wishes. If the loved one lacks a will, the court will name an executor and determine who receives what based on state law. Eighteen states have adopted the Uniform Probate Code, which makes handling small estates easier; however, states differ in their definition of small estates. An estate attorney can help with the complexities of probate.
6. Meet With the Deceased's Financial Adviser, Attorney. Banks, Etc.
Financial advisers, banks, and attorneys can help you determine what assets your loved one had and whether some pass directly to beneficiaries without going through the probate process. They can also tell you how to update ownership if assets are to be transferred that way and how to close single-owner accounts. If you are the surviving spouse, contact the deceased's past and current employers or union to determine pension and life insurance benefits. Contact the Social Security Administration about benefits, as well.
You also may need to cancel credit cards and utility services in the deceased's name.
7. Contact Insurance Companies
Contact insurance companies; life insurance generally passes directly to the beneficiaries without going through probate. You may need to cancel some policies, such as auto insurance in the deceased name, or update names on insurance policies, including beneficiaries.
8. Notify Credit Reporting Agencies
Notify Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion of the death to lessen identity theft risk. Periodically check the loved one's credit report to ensure no fraudulent accounts have been opened.
9. Prepare final tax returns
You'll also need to file final tax returns to close out your loved ones' financial history with the government and pay all remaining taxes. Doing this early in the probate process may ease determining what is available to be disbursed to heirs. You can file the taxes yourself or consult a tax adviser.
You're Not in This Alone
Solas Wealth Management is a great resource that can help you through this challenging process. We provide coaching that can help you rebuild your life after losing a loved one. We also can provide wealth management advice. Contact us today to schedule a conversation.