Dealing with the death of a loved one is an overwhelming experience. Time seems to both slow down and speed up and the rollercoaster of emotions is overpowering. Even though you are grieving, you are expected to spring into action to complete a number of tasks.
To make things even more difficult, there is no clear list of things you must do. This post seeks to remedy that by pulling together a list of five things you might not know you need to do when a loved ones dies.
- Get multiple copies of the death certificate.
When someone dies, the funeral home or mortuary prepares a death certificate. This is an official government document that you will have to provide to different organizations to prove your loved one’s death. You will need a copy to give out each time you claim property or benefits that belonged to your loved one. Think life insurance proceeds, Social Security benefits, payable on death accounts, veterans benefits, etc.
The easiest way to get all the copies you will need is by asking the funeral home or mortuary for them at the time of death. To be on the safe side, we recommend getting around 20 copies of the certificate. If you need to order more copies at a later date, you will have to get them from the local vital records office.
If you pay for copies of the death certificate out of your own pocket, keep track of these expenditures. You can seek reimbursement from the estate.
- Contact your loved one’s financial advisor.
Most people know that after a loved one dies it is a good idea to reach out to the attorney who crafted his or her estate plan. But fewer people know that it is also important to check in with your loved one’s financial advisor and/or accountant.
The financial advisor can help you pull together a list of accounts, and help you contact various account holders to let them know their client has passed away.
- Forward the mail.
Whoever is acting as the estate administrator needs to contact the United States Postal Service and have all of your loved one’s mail forwarded to themselves or collected at the post office for periodic pick-up. USPS has instructions for how to do this on its website.
Going through your loved one’s mail will help you figure out what bills need to be paid and what accounts need to be closed.
- Call your loved one’s employer.
If your loved one was still employed, it is important to reach out to his or her employer to let them know what has happened. The human resources department should know how to handle any money that is owed to your loved one, and will have information about benefits, retirement plans, and life insurance.
- File a tax return.
I talk a lot on this site about ways to minimize estate taxes, but it is important to remember that estate taxes are not the only taxes due at death. Estate administrators also need to file a final personal income tax return.
You don’t have to do all of this all by yourself
Too often the burden of wrapping up a loved one’s affairs falls on the shoulders of one person. There is no good reason why this should happen. Ask for help from family and friends or an experienced professional so you don’t get overwhelmed.
Posted in: Estate Planning