As we get older, we inevitably face the loss of a loved one. Sometimes we have time to prepare, other times it is sudden. If we are lucky enough to have some time to prepare ourselves mentally and emotionally, the process of coordinating these elements can be much more controlled and organized.
If death is sudden and we face it unexpectedly, it will be more difficult since the traumatic and emotional effects of the death of our loved one are still fresh and we need time to allow ourselves to grieve. In addition to the immediate needs of funeral arrangements, final medical bills, and notification to family and friends, the rest of these items can be handled in the coming weeks or even months if you are not ready or willing to address them immediately after your loss. . .
The following 9 points should be addressed as soon as you can grieve and are comfortable taking on the challenge.
Item 1 – Obtain 5-10 additional copies of the certified Death Certificate.
For most survivors, you will need the ability to prove the death of your spouse or parent to transfer or change ownership of assets, close accounts, or modify existing benefit programs. Most businesses and organizations that handle these items will require a certified copy of the death certificate as proof of death. Some may be willing to use a photocopy if requested. They may be required to visually inspect the certificate before accepting a photocopy, just to make sure it is original and certified.
Unfortunately, there are people who try to collect death benefits by using forged and illegal death certificates. This has become more common and many institutions do not accept copies due to this. But, especially if you are meeting with the institution in person, bring an original certified copy and ask if they can make and accept a photocopy.
Each of these original and certified death certificates will cost between $ 5 and $ 25 if you obtain them at the time of the funeral. If you wait until weeks, months, or years later, they could cost anywhere from $ 50 to $ 200 depending on where you need to get them.
Calculate your needs for the bank, brokerage, IRA, 401k, life insurance, annuities and other accounts you have. Then add about 5 more to that number for several others that may require it. Also, always keep at least one original for your future records and your family in case they need it later.
Item 2 – Gather your trusted team.
Your trusted team. Who is on your trusted team? For most people, this should start with family members. Parents, children or siblings should always be considered first. As you get older, you may even include some grandchildren that you have learned are trustworthy. This first component is those people you know you can trust because they share your pain and are always looking for the best for you.
Many of the decisions you will have to make over the next several months may involve looking out for your best interest and your financial, emotional, and physical well-being. While the final decision is always yours, you need the advice, input, knowledge, and help of trusted loved ones to help shape the best decisions for your needs today and in the future.
After deciding on a few trusted family members, you should add some of the following external members to your team. I suggest that if you have a financial and wealth advisor, you bring him or her first to review your situation and make suggestions on what can be done first without the need for an attorney. Most good financial and estate advisers will be able to help you handle all the filings and forms required to make death claims, benefit changes, and updates with the need for attorneys’ fees at this time. If you already have an existing relationship with this financial advisor, these services may have little or no cost.
If you hired an attorney first, many of these basic filings would be charged to your account at rates that could be as high as 5 percent of the value of the assets, transfers, or distributions. These costs can be saved by using a financial advisor to guide you through them.
You’ll also want to involve your income tax preparer at some point to make sure everything is settled correctly with the IRS before the end of the year the death occurred. Failure to do so may result in penalties.
Having an attorney involved is something you may need to do. But I would read through the rest of these items and then make sure you have the checklist of items that you want the attorney to handle. If done correctly, much of the estate will already be administered and distributed before you visit the attorney.
Item 3 – Contact Employers and Social Security
You will need to contact Social Security to notify them of the death. Then they will start to process the information and stop the monthly payments if any. Don’t worry, this is normal. A surviving spouse will receive the higher of the two social security amounts upon the death of one of the spouses. As an example. If Spouse A received $ 1,000 per month and Spouse B received $ 750 per month, if Spouse A dies, Spouse B will receive the greater of the two amounts, $ 1,000 each month thereafter.
Contact all past and present employers of the deceased. Ask if there were any death benefits as part of your employment. Also, ask if there were any death benefits as part of your retirement plan. Ask if modifications are needed to the monthly pensions that are being received. Finally, ask if there are any necessary modifications to your health insurance if it is provided through the company. Based on these answers, you will know if there is anything else to take care of.
Article 4 – Submit Life Insurance Claims
Many people have multiple life insurance policies, possibly from several different companies over the years. If you find the policies or receive any bills or statements in the mail, ask about death benefits and the options available to you. As long as you are the beneficiary, there should only be a few forms to complete and submit before you can receive death income from your life insurance. You may need to file a death claim for each different policy you have in order to satisfy all the claims on the policy.
Article 5 – Contact banks, brokerage and credit unions
Your local bank, brokerage and credit union should be notified of the death. If your accounts were jointly owned with your spouse or parent, then you will only need to change the account names to remove the deceased person. If they were only in the name of the deceased, then you will need to handle them differently. Ask the institution what its rules and procedures are in regards to these accounts and submit the proper documentation to handle the transactions.
Element 6: closing unwanted and unnecessary accounts
It probably makes sense to close unwanted or unnecessary accounts at this point. The only exception is that you may want to keep a joint account open, in case you receive a check payable to the deceased. You may be able to deposit this check into the joint account by signing it for “Deposit Only”. This could save you a costly trip to the attorney or surrogate court office later on.
Point 7 – Review wills and powers of attorney
It is always a good idea to review your will, power of attorney, medical directives, health care powers, and any trusts that you have established regularly at least every 3-5 years. It becomes even more important after the death of a spouse or parent. You may need to review the executors, trustees, and other designated individuals to reflect current situations.
You’ll also want to look at your existing beneficiary arrangements and see if they can be simplified, modified, and corrected to better represent your current wishes. These can be done with an attorney, online, or with one of the many legal software programs that are available. The key is to make sure they are reviewed, executed, and notarized as needed.
Article 8 – Review real estate ownership agreements
If the deceased owned real property on his own or together with others, you will need to analyze how he will be affected by his death. There are certain rights that co-owners of real estate may or may not have, depending on the type of property. It can also differ from state to state depending on whether the owner was a resident or owned the property for vacation purposes.
Once you have a clear idea of what type of property arrangements exist, you can begin to look at how it should be handled and how it will be handled. You may need to consult with a real estate attorney, but I would start by asking how much they charge for a “real estate” transaction.
Only after discovering this do mention that this will involve a deceased owner. It may cost a bit more as a real estate transaction for a deceased owner, but if you mention it as a property transaction, many attorneys will attempt to charge a much higher fee (possibly up to 5% of the home’s value). through succession and the succession process. This could cost you thousands of dollars instead of hundreds of dollars if you let them. But now you know better.
Article 9 – Protect and preserve your assets from fraud
Today we have a new generation of criminals. Many of them prey on widows and the elderly. They have no conscience and are more than willing to take advantage of anyone who is willing to listen to their story.
Make sure one or more trusted children, siblings, or friends review any financial “opportunities”, investments, donations, or scams before deciding to ditch your money. These scam artists will try to get small amounts at first, then escalate their fraudulent activities to much larger amounts once they feel like they have you on the hook.
Don’t let this happen. Always contact one of your trusted team members before making important or suspicious decisions.
As we age, making good decisions can become more difficult. It becomes even more difficult if you have just lost a loved one and are grieving. Don’t let anyone rush you, but listen to trusted team members if they tell you that you need to do something now. Ask them to explain why it should be done right away or if you can wait until it’s ready. Some items require more urgent attention, especially if your loved one passed away near the end of a calendar year.
Most of these items can be handled for a period of time when you are ready to tackle them. I suggest you take them one at a time and ask your Trusted Team members for help. Finish one, then move on to the other, until you complete them all. If you try to do them all at once, you may end up frustrated and unwilling to continue. There is a great saying … “This too will pass.” Remember that when you feel overwhelmed. This too shall pass!