Take These Seven Important Financial Actions When a Loved one Passes Away
There’s so much to be done when you lose a loved one. In addition to notifying friends and family, making funeral arrangements, and dealing with enormous grief, there are important financial and legal details that require attention.
If you are a spouse, child, or executor of the will, knowing about these financial tasks and documents will make the job much easier. In this article, we have listed seven key administrative matters that should be attended to following a loss.
1. Start by obtaining certified death certificates.
These documents are generally obtained through the funeral home, but they can also be ordered from the Vital Statistics office in the state in which the death occurred. There’s typically a charge for each certified copy requested. Some recipients may accept a reproduction but most entities will require a certified death certificate, so be sure to order a sufficient number of original documents. Experts advise ordering at least twenty, as you will need them for insurance providers, banks, creditors, and other institutions.
2. If your loved one was employed, contact the firm’s human resources department.
They can provide you with important financial information, including details regarding any life insurance policies that may be in place and contact information for the company that administers the retirement plan. In addition, benefits for survivors may exist, such as a final paycheck or payment for unused vacation and sick leave.
3. Assemble relevant legal documents.
A lot of information about yourself and the deceased will be required as you go through the process of handling their affairs. If your loved one prepared a Letter of Instruction, the location of many of these legal documents will be listed there. In addition to the death certificates, keep these documents on hand, as applicable:
· Social Security cards or numbers for your and the decedent
· Birth certificate
· Marriage license
· Divorce decree, if applicable
· Deeds to property
· Automobile titles
· Military service records, if applicable
· Estate planning documents, including Wills and Powers of Attorney
4. Collect financial information.
You’ll need to locate all of the decedent’s accounts. Many will be obvious, but some may be easy to overlook. It’s a good idea to sort through your loved one’s mail for several months to identify any missing information, such as non-recurring bills. The primary financial documents and information you should collect includes:
· Bank and investment accounts
· Retirement accounts
· Mortgage and other loan statements
· Insurance policies
· Tax returns
· Bills, including utilities, credit cards, and insurance premiums
· Email and logins for all accounts (this information is vital and in many states, it cannot be obtained from the company or financial institution)
5. Transfer any joint assets.
As soon as possible, remove your loved one’s name from any jointly held assets, such as bank accounts, credit cards, auto titles. and deeds to property. Any expenses related to those assets then become the responsibility of the owner rather than the estate.
6. Notify government agencies.
It’s important to promptly notify the Social Security Administration and any other applicable government agencies to end or begin receiving benefits. Depending on the state in which you live, the funeral home may contact Social Security on your behalf. A surviving spouse or children may qualify to receive a one-time $255 death benefit from the Social Security Administration. Additionally, survivor benefits may be available for spouses and ex-spouses who were married to the departed for ten years or more.
7. Inform the credit reporting agencies.
Sadly, there is no shortage of fraudsters who seek to take advantage of the bereaved. To reduce the chance of identity theft and other forms of financial fraud, contact all three major credit reporting agencies (TransUnion, Experian and Equifax) so they can add a ‘deceased’ indicator to your loved one’s accounts.
During times of grief, judgment often becomes clouded. Although you may feel pressured to rush through these tasks, you should not make any major financial decisions immediately following the death of a loved one. Experts advise waiting at least six months before addressing significant money matters.
Handling the economic affairs of your departed loved one is bound to be stressful. Be sure to get emotional or professional support if you feel overwhelmed. Our caring professionals are here to assist you, too. Please reach out to us anytime.
About Vaughn Greene Funeral Services: For more than 20 years, Vaughn Greene Funeral Services has been providing a ministry of care to Baltimore’s African American community. As a leading local, minority- and family-owned provider, we promise to provide our highest level of service and respect to families who entrust us to honor their loved ones. For more information, please call us at 410.655.0015 or visit us online at https://vaughncgreene.com/.