Losing a loved one: Tasks you may not want to delay
The loss of a loved one is an incredibly difficult and stressful period. Having a list of items to take care of, and preparing in advance as much as possible, can help make those trying moments a little less stressful. Some items you may want to consider include the following:
Obtain death certificates—and get more than you think you’ll need
In general, it is easier to obtain death certificates from a funeral home earlier, rather than waiting, and it’s always better to overorder them. You will need death certificates for life insurance policies, bank accounts, CDs, investment accounts, credit card accounts, mortgages, Social Security, and more. Retain extra copies of death certificates, since they may be needed to prove the death of the deceased in other, later proceedings.
Care for pets
It is important to arrange care for the decedent’s pets as quickly as possible.
Arrange for a housesitter during the funeral
Thieves can target homes based on information that appears in obituaries, which often includes funeral arrangements.
Notify anyone holding a power of attorney
After the passing of your loved one, any power of attorney will no longer be valid. An attorney-in-fact holding a power of attorney can no longer act on the principal’s behalf.
Gather important documents
Locate Wills and any codicils, trusts and any amendments, and other estate planning documents. Gather documents relating to assets and liabilities, including bank and brokerage accounts, life insurance policies, safe deposit boxes, credit card statements, subscriptions, dues, mortgage statements, utilities, and other assets or liabilities.
In addition, gather information related to digital assets, such as online repositories for photographs or online asset accounts, such as a PayPal or an online banking account. If you have the authority to do so, you should consider canceling subscriptions, memberships, credit cards, and other recurring payments, as appropriate.
Contact a lawyer
You may need to begin probate proceedings soon after your loved one’s death in case their family members or other beneficiaries have emergency costs that must be covered.
Investigate death benefits
Social Security and life insurance may not be the only assets that offer death benefits. Unions, veterans’ organizations, pensions, annuities, and others should also be explored. Make sure that your own beneficiary designations, including those for life insurance policies and retirement plans (such as 401(k)s and IRAs), are up to date. Also, if necessary, make sure your withholdings on Form W-4 accurately reflect your new family reality.
Keep records of payments and expenses
Keeping good records of payments and expenses you make on behalf of the deceased’s estate should make it easier for you to get reimbursed by the estate. In addition, the estate may be able to deduct these payments and expenses against its estate tax or its income tax.
Look into employee benefits
Possible employee benefits include accrued vacation, death benefits, deferred compensation, and more. Some of those benefits could be passed on to the estate of your loved one or to specific beneficiaries.
Consult an advisor
In difficult times, it may be especially helpful to talk to your or your family’s legal, financial or tax advisors and review all steps to take and options you may have to consider.