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Losing A Loved One – Eight Tasks that Must be Addressed

When a loved one passes away, there is, naturally, great sadness.  But, for the surviving spouse or other family members, there’s little rest for the weary.  Not only is time spent on grieving and trying to cope with the loss, but, within a very short period, the everyday world starts making demands.  Most people understand that there will be some legal actions that follow, like the reading of a Will and going through probate (a court procedure to establish the validity of a Will).  But they are not prepared for the onslaught of “everyday” issues that must be addressed.  The following highlights just some of the most common “to do’s.”

– Contact Social Security to inform them of the death.  Social Security will guide you through whatever needs to be done regarding Social Security and Medicare benefits.

– Contact the deceased’s employer or former employer to insure that all benefits due survivors are properly handled.

– Contact all necessary financial institutions such as banks, credit card companies, firms maintaining the deceased’s 401Ks, etc. to close out accounts, change the name on existing accounts, or open new accounts as needed.

– Pay monthly bills.

– File taxes.

– Cancel monthly mail-order prescriptions sent to the now deceased individual.

– Transfer the title on the deceased’s car to the new owner.

– Provide the Post Office with a forwarding address as needed.

The list goes on and on and it can take a year or more to finish up.  However, there are some things that you can do well in advance that will, when the time comes, relieve some of the stress for the survivors who will be working on these “to do’s.”

First and foremost, maintain a list of all your assets (such as IRA’s, 401ks, home(s) and other properties, businesses, etc.) and important contacts (such as your lawyer, accountant, employer, financial advisor, insurance agent, banks and investment firms).  Be sure to include account numbers where applicable, telephone numbers and addresses for these contacts, and to specify where important papers and other important items such as your Will, the Deed to your house, and significant jewelry are located.  Also, any websites that you use for reviewing or managing your assets should be listed with accompanying usernames and passwords.  And, be sure to update your list periodically as your circumstances change.  The bottom line – this list will enable your loved ones to identify and contact all necessary people in an orderly and efficient manner.  It will help insure that all your assets are identified.  An hour or two spent creating or updating this list once or twice a year can really spare your loved ones an enormous amount of grief, stress, and confusion in the future.

One final point.  It’s important to remember that you do have a support network.  Not only family and friends, but, your attorney, your accountant, and others on your contact list can guide and assist you most efficiently and effectively with many of these important “to do’s.”   Consider all your resources.

Getting Legal Help

Experienced Estate Planning Attorney, Elga Goodman, can help with your estate planning needs and can guide your loved ones when the time comes in ensuring that your wishes are carried out.  Contact us today at 973-841-5111.

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