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Managing Personal Affairs after the Loss of a Loved One

| April 23, 2021

The grief one feels when a spouse, parent, or other loved one dies is almost always overwhelming. In addition to the emotional heartbreak, there is often a great deal of confusion concerning the deceased’s financial affairs and how the survivors will carry on.

Follow-Up Checklist

The following is a basic checklist that can be used by survivors when dealing with the many issues that must be addressed:

  • Immediately consult the family attorney. He or she will be able to guide your family through many of the ensuing legal and tax issues.
  • Obtain several certified copies of the death certificate. These are available from your county clerk; some funeral directors also provide them. They are required when claiming death benefits from insurance companies, as well as Social Security benefits. Also, remember to file for such death benefits—they are not processed automatically.
  • If you (or a surviving parent) depend on the employee benefits of the deceased, contact his or her employer and exercise your rights to keep medical coverage or other benefits in force. Talk to your insurance professional about options for converting or acquiring new coverage.
  • If a surviving parent is elderly and requires assistance with activities of daily living, investigate the many alternatives that are available. Depending on the individual’s health status and needs, the possibilities may include senior housing, assisted living, nursing home care, or a retirement community.
  • In many cases, you may want to deposit lump-sum payments from insurance policies or company pension plans in a money market fund, at least temporarily. This can give you time to assess your financial needs and options. An investment in a money market fund is neither insured nor guaranteed by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) or any other government agency. Although such funds seek to preserve the value of your investment at $1.00 per share, it is possible to lose money by investing in the fund.
  • Tackle these short-term goals before addressing more complex matters, such as whether or not to move, or sell a home, and how to plan for long-term financial needs.

Advance Planning

Aside from the issues that must be taken care of after a death occurs, there are also many things that can be done in advance, that can make it much easier for loved ones later, among which:

  • List all pertinent financial information your loved ones will need to know, especially your Social Security number, and the numbers of your bank and investment accounts and insurance policies. Be sure to include the names and telephone numbers of your attorney, accountant, banker, broker, life insurance professional, employee benefits supervisor, and any other important financial contacts.
  • Store the list in a safe place known to loved ones, along with copies of all policy documents, wills and trusts, advance directives, birth and marriage certificates, tax-related paperwork, mortgage papers, and employee benefits and pension plan statements.

Keep Things Simple

Recovering after the death of a loved one is never easy. Fortunately, much can be done to lessen the confusion over financial and security issues. Taking time now to put your financial affairs in good order is a lasting and loving gesture to your family, one they will be sure to appreciate.