Steps to Take When Someone Passes
The death of a spouse or family member is a traumatic experience that can shake the very foundations of your life. In the midst of dealing with the grief and pain of the loss of a loved one, there are financial matters that we believe should be addressed. The following list may help guide you through the steps to take when a family member passes.
- Contact your friends & family. Upon the death of your loved one, call family members, close friends and clergy first — you’ll need their emotional support.
- Notify your loved one’s place of work, union, and any organizations where he or she may have volunteered regularly.
- Get several death certificates. You will need these in order to settle the deceased’s estate and to provide proof of death to the insurance company as well as to other agencies that require it. The more complex the estate, the more copies you will need. Request these from the funeral director and/or the county clerk’s office.
- Contact your financial professionals, accountant, lawyer, etc. These advisors can help you locate important documents like a will, copies of insurance policies, investment and financial documents, and real estate papers among others. For a more complete list, see reverse.
- Locate and review the will. Your loved one may have communicated specific instructions for a funeral or memorial service. Look for the following documents: informal letter of instruction, living trust, pre-arranged funeral plans.
- Inform credit reporting agencies. To help prevent identity theft, notify the major credit reporting agencies (Equifax, Experian, TransUnion) of the death and provide them with copies of the death certificate. Periodically check your loved one’s credit report to ensure fraudulent accounts have not been opened.
- Notify government agencies. Often, the funeral director will notify Social Security of your loved one’s passing, but it never hurts to double check. You’ll also want to notify Medicare, Veterans Affairs or any other agency that had provided benefits to your loved one. Surviving spouses and other family members may be eligible for new benefits. Go to www.ssa.gov for more information.
Contact the Department of Motor Vehicles to cancel a license and voter registration, and the post office to decide where to forward the deceased’s mail. Whoever receives the mail can then determine which subscriptions or accounts need to be canceled.
Within the Next Few Weeks
- Contact the current and former employers’ human resources department. There may be salary, vacation or sick pay owed, as well as benefits from life insurance, retirement and pension funds, and profit sharing. Be sure to ask about any additional survivor or death benefits.
- Make a list of the deceased’s assets. Put safeguards in place to protect any property. Make sure mortgage and insurance payments continue to be made while the estate is being settled.
- Advise creditors, such as banks and credit card companies, of the death. Change ownership and/or close accounts and inventory the safety deposit box.
- Retitle jointly held assets. such as bank accounts, automobiles, stocks and bonds, and real estate. If the deceased owned, controlled or was a principal in a business, check to see if there are any buy-sell agreements under which his or her interest must be sold.
- Contact insurance companies. If your loved one had life insurance, you’ll need to file the necessary claim forms to receive the benefit. You will need to provide the life insurance company with a death certificate and the policy number. Remember to terminate other insurance policies as necessary. This could include anything from health insurance to home, auto, renter’s or other policies. Any claim form will require a copy of the death certificate.
- File the will with the appropriate probate court. Filing deadlines vary by state and range from 30 days to 3 months. The probate process has numerous notices and filing requirements. Your estate planning attorney can help guide you through the legal process.
Within 3 to 9 Months After Death
- A federal estate tax return may need to be filed within 9 months of death. State laws vary, but State estate tax and/or inheritance tax returns may also need to be filed. Federal and State income taxes are due for the year of death on the normal filing date, unless an extension is requested. If there are trusts, separate income tax returns may need to be filed. You may want to seek the advice of a tax professional.
- Contact email and other online resources. Deactivate or memorialize social networking accounts. Once you feel you have the necessary information, permanently close email accounts and contact online payment systems, such as PayPal. Remember to check photo storage sites that may have irreplaceable photo libraries.
- Inform those who had a business or personal relationship with the deceased. For example: eye doctor, dentist, health insurance provider, any clubs & memberships, volunteer organizations, pharmacy (make sure recurring mail order prescription deliveries are stopped), etc.
Within 9 to 12 Months After Death
- Review and update your own legal and estate planning documents.
- Review your insurance policies, especially if your loved one was a beneficiary.
- Reevaluate your budget, as well as short-term and long-term finances including your retirement plan.
- Reevaluate and rebalance your investment portfolio.
Preparing in Advance
Preparing for and managing the financial and administrative transitions related to you or a loved one’s death can ease the grief and stress on those left behind during what is sure to be a chaotic time of transition for them. Below are some key issues Lenox Advisors can help you address:
- Are my Estate Planning documents (wills, trusts, etc.) up to date and consistent with current tax codes?
- Are there Trust instruments I should be using, e.g., Living Revocable Trusts, Special Needs Trusts, Irrevocable Trusts, Generation Skipping Trusts, etc.?
- Should I designate Guardians for my children and Trustees for my estate?
- Do I have the right amount and right type of insurance, e.g., Life, Disability Income, Long Term Care? Are they coordinated with my other assets and legal documents?
- What’s the best way to establish charitable vehicles? Family Foundation, Donor Advised Fund, Direct Gifts or Charitable Trusts?
The grieving process can take a long time and having to attend to tasks while grieving may feel overwhelming. During this time, it’s wise not to make any decisions, financial or otherwise, in haste. Your Lenox advisor can lend support and help guide you through the process.
*Estate Planning done in conjunction with your legal and tax advisors.
The information provided is not written or intended as tax or legal advice and may not be relied on for purposes of avoiding any Federal tax penalties. Lenox Advisors, Inc., its employees, or representatives are not authorized to give legal or tax advice. Individuals are encouraged to seek advice from their own tax or legal counsel. Individuals involved in the estate planning process should work with an estate planning team, including their own personal tax or legal counsel. Lenox Advisors, Inc. (Lenox) is a wholly owned subsidiary of NFP Corp. (NFP), a financial services holding company, New York, NY. Securities and investment advisory services offered through qualified registered representatives of MML Investors Services, LLC. Member SIPC. 90 Park Ave, 17th Floor, New York, NY 10016, 212.536.6000. Fee based planning services are offered through Lenox Wealth Advisors, LLC (LWA), a registered investment adviser. Services will be referred by qualified representatives of MML Investors Services, LLC (MMLIS). LWA is a subsidiary of NFP and affiliated under common control with Lenox. Lenox, LWA and NFP are not subsidiaries or affiliates of MMLIS, or its affiliated companies. FP102 CRN202111-256850