Estimated reading time: 10 minutes
Losing a loved one is never easy and can be a very trying time. Apart from dealing with your own emotional turmoil, you may also find yourself responsible for handling their final affairs. How to Handle a Loved One’s Estate: 3 Steps To Take When Someone Dies is taking a step-by-step approach to make the process more manageable. By following a few simple steps, you can ensure that their final affairs are well-managed and that their legacy is taken care of.
As a financial professional who has gone through loss, I understand that grieving can take a toll. But in order to honor your loved one’s memory and find peace, it’s essential to take care of yourself and settle their affairs. That’s why I’ve put together a straightforward guide to addressing end-of-life affairs, having guided many clients through this process before. By following these steps, you can focus on what’s important and be better equipped to handle this difficult time.
Table of Contents
- 1. The First Step When Someone Dies: Address End-of-Life Logistics
- 2. The Second Step When Someone Dies: Contact Relevant Organizations
- 3. The Third Step When Someone Dies: Get Documents in Order
- Making it Through This Difficult Time
- Making Cents Count Financial Organizer
To make this process easier, I’ve compiled three helpful checklists in free our resource library. By accessing the library, you will also join our supportive Making Cents Count community, where you’ll receive full access to our helpful hints and tips.
1. The First Step When Someone Dies: Address End-of-Life Logistics
The first step after someone passes away is to address the end-of-life logistics. This means dealing with the legal and financial tasks that must be taken care of, such as filing paperwork, notifying institutions, and closing financial accounts out.
There’s no right or wrong way to process the death of a loved one, but unfortunately, there are logistical decisions that someone will need to make during this time. The first step is to do your best to get these different pieces in order, especially if you are the next of kin.
The most natural guidance is to seek instructions your loved one may have left about his or her wishes, funeral arrangements, and burial arrangements. I advise my clients to have these difficult conversations with your loved ones whenever possible because you never know when tragedy can strike.
How to Handle A Loved One’s Estate: Having the “Talk”
Of course, these conversations aren’t always possible, and sometimes it’s too late. If this is the case, do your best to gather together any materials you can. Go through those boxes of notes, paperwork, and photos. These pieces can clue you in on the wishes of your loved ones and they can also help you in planning an appropriate wake, funeral, or remembrance.
Funeral homes are often good advisors in terms of planning the end-of-life tribute, memorial service or celebration of life. They can walk you through the funeral service, obituary, and burial.
When someone close to you passes, it’s essential to mourn and process your emotions. Take the time to gather loved ones and honor the person’s life with a ceremony. Share memories, have a moment of silence, or do whatever feels meaningful to reflect and grieve together.
How to Handle a Loved One’s Estate: Get a Legal Pronouncement of Death
Knowing just what to do when someone dies or a loved one passes away is crucial. If your loved one passed away at home, you must follow legal procedures to declare the death. In case of deaths caused by accidents, it’s essential to contact a physician for assistance immediately. Suppose the person has expressed a desire to not be revived. In that case, ensure that the hospital is notified. The coroner and 911 can help transport the remains, and you can arrange a service with a funeral home.
If you need help getting through this time, it may be beneficial to enlist the assistance of a friend or trusted family member, particularly if you’re having difficulty coping. Making difficult phone calls to friends and relatives, communicating with your loved one’s employer, and seeking guidance from a reputable estate planning attorney may all be necessary. Remember, you don’t have to go through it alone.
How to Handle a Loved One’s Estate: The Practicalities of Bereavement
Dealing with the practicalities of bereavement is tough, so having a trusted advisor can ease the burden of keeping track of everything. One important aspect is obtaining multiple certified death certificates, as these will be required by several institutions, government agencies and organizations. By remembering these details, you can overcome the challenges that come with this trying time.
It’s also important to get an official copy of the will or trust document from the executor or trustee. This document could be used for talking with banks mortgage companies, and other financial institutions about any accounts, investments, insurance policies, or debts which need to be settled in accordance with the deceased’s wishes.
For a complete list of the steps you need to take, please see Part 1: Steps You May Need to Take When Someone You Care About Dies in the Making Cents Count resource library.
2. The Second Step When Someone Dies: Contact Relevant Organizations
Following the loss of a loved one, several important calls must be made. Among them, the funeral director at home is typically the first and most valuable. Funeral directors are uniquely well-versed in the needs of grieving families and can provide compassionate guidance during this difficult time.
It’s important to take the necessary steps to ensure that your loved one’s affairs are properly settled after their passing. This includes reaching out to their life insurance and other financial providers, as well as creditors and member associations. You can obtain information on death benefits and required documentation from employers, veteran’s affairs offices, and other relevant sources.
When Someone Dies: Notify the Social Security Administration
After the passing of a loved one, it is important to notify social security. Diligently pursue financial, tax, and investment counsel. Give extra focus to scenarios with children or trusts. When a single parent passes away, appointing a guardian or conservator to manage assets is crucial. Legal expertise is necessary for this process.
When your loved one appoints an executor for their will and estate, that person is now responsible. Deciding on an executor is crucial. This vital step ensures that your assets transfer to your loved ones according to your wishes after your passing. Choose wisely and confidently. An executor is responsible for settling debts with creditors and lenders, and distributing money. When you cannot find end-of-life documents or an executor remains unnamed, seeking legal guidance becomes essential for navigating the process. By putting the right estate plan in place, you ensure the honoring of your wishes.
When Someone Dies: How to Handle the Distribution of Assets
Estate distribution is tricky and can be tough to navigate for even the closest family members. Often, there are a lot of conflicts that can arise when emotions are raw and sensitive. I can’t stress enough seeking out reputable legal guidance and professional oversight. You’ll ensure that cooler heads prevail and meet the wishes of your loved one.
For more guidance on the various contacts you will need to make, along with a complete checklist, please see Part 2: Organizations You May Need to Contact When Someone You Care About Dies in our free resource library.
3. The Third Step When Someone Dies: Get Documents in Order
Even on our best days, most of us find it challenging to organize and process paperwork. And, after a loved one dies, it can be even more daunting. The task of filling out complicated forms and collating documents may be the last thing on anyone’s mind.
During the estate settlement process, numerous documents and forms demand meticulous attention. Facing challenges? Seek help from a reliable friend or family member. Choose someone who isn’t as emotionally invested to assist you in navigating this process.
When Someone Dies: Obtain Certified Death Certificate
You will need a few documents when filing a life insurance claim following the passing of a loved one. These include the death certificate, life insurance claim form, and forms from the funeral home.
You’ll also need various legal documents. These include papers related to personal property, marriage(s), dependents, and estate distribution. It can feel overwhelming, but we’ve got a comprehenseive guide to help make it clearer for you.
Depending on your loved one’s cause of death, there will likely be a police report, coroner’s report, and a medical report determining the cause and circumstances surrounding the passing. These documents should be carefully kept along with the certified death certificates, as you will often need them as you settle the estate.
For a complete list of the documents needed, please see the resource library for Part 3: Documents You May Need When Someone You Care About Dies. In these resources, I’ve outlined all the items in a clear, printable list. Some members of our community have found it helpful to print the lists out. Keep them on hand as they go through the estate settlement process.
Making it Through This Difficult Time
Losing a loved one is undoubtedly the most challenging and stressful situation one can face. Although thinking about finances during the grieving process may seem callous and unfair, it’s a crucial aspect that can’t be ignored. It may not be easy, but it’s necessary to ensure financial stability and social security benefits during these difficult times.
It’s tough losing someone you love, and it can be even worse when important documents aren’t in place. This is exactly why getting your financial affairs in order is crucial for leaving a clear plan.
How to Handle a Loved One’s Estate: Your Checklist of Financial Documents
Take control of your future by creating a checklist of all your financial documents. This way, your loved ones won’t have to struggle to find them when it matters most. My best advice? Use this time as a learning process and take action.
Although it’s never pleasant to dwell on worst-case scenarios, preparing for them can bring peace of mind. Estate planning ensures that our loved ones won’t face undue stress and disputes about inheritance. This is especially vital if you’ve had health concerns. Clear documentation with a plan in place can prevent squabbles with family members down the road. Further allowing you to enjoy life with one less worry on your mind.
How to Handle a Loved One’s Estate: Dealing with Family Members
I often say that grief brings out the best and worst in people. It’s a time when someone’s “true” character may emerge, and it’s difficult to predict how people will respond. Moral of the story, it’s important to document as much as possible and have a clear plan. This protects your close family members from difficulties down the road. When you do this, you are giving them a gift that will serve them well.
By taking small steps towards getting your personal affairs in order, you can ensure that your loved ones don’t have to make tough choices and painful decisions in their darkest hour. Let this be a reminder to you to prioritize something that truly matters and take care of your loved ones beyond the here and now.
How to Handle a Loved One’s Estate: Conclusion
During this challenging time, remember that you are capable of emerging stronger. As you mourn the loss of your close friends and loved ones, may the thoughts of your cherished memories bring solace and comfort and instill hope for a brighter tomorrow.
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Once you get your budget rolling, check out my post on 6 Simple Steps to Get Financially Organized. This post also includes a helpful checklist available in my Resource Library (free to access).
Admittedly, this particular checklist has a larger-scale focus on your overall financial picture, but I genuinely feel that getting your finances organized is essential.
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