Dealing with the loss of a loved one, a family member, or long-time friend or partner, can be overwhelming to the point that you don’t know what to do next. You are coping with the elements of grief and still need to carry on as if nothing has changed. On top of it all, you know you will need to deal with financial matters but it is hard to know where to start. Here are a list of common steps you can take to help with the financials.
If there is a financial advisor in the mix, this is a good place to start. They can give you some guidance about the person’s current finances. It is helpful if you can locate the person’s passwords to give you access to their online documents like bank statements or investment reports. Check with the institution where your loved one banked to see if there is a safe deposit box, which is where a Will or other legal documents are probably kept.
Another early contact should be an estate attorney. He or she will help you record the Will or any Trust documents with the Probate Court and determine what actions need to be taken. These laws vary by state, so you will need someone who is licensed to practice in the state in which the decedent was a legal resident. Income tax records should show that. The attorney will also help with guardianship for any minor children or incapacitate adults that your loved one was responsible for.
Check on any expenses for the last illness, care facility, or hospital. Explain that you will be dealing with these matters as quickly as possible but if they could put a hold on any interest or collection, that would be beneficial. Get it in writing to help avoid issues as they crop up.
As much as possible, keep track of what you are doing and when you are doing it. In other words, keep a notebook or online document. If nothing else write appointments on a wall calendar to help sort out all the elements you are dealing with.
Know where you can access a notary public. Many documents will need this. Your attorney or financial advisor may have access to one. You might also need a medallion signature guarantee, which will transfer securities held in physical form, like stock certificates.
Order multiple copies of the certified death certificate, more than you think you will need.
Contact Social Security about any survivors’ benefits and to notify them if the deceased was receiving regular payments. If applicable, look into veterans’ benefits for the possibility of remuneration for burial costs. Again, if applicable, contact the employer or even former employer about any insurance, retirement plans, or 401k accounts.
Contact all three major credit bureaus (TransUnion, Experian, and Equifax) to minimize the chance of identity theft. Usually these three will share information, but contact each, just to be sure.
Close any social media accounts. Monitor email for a while and then close that as well.
Cancel the person’s driver’s license or state identification card.
If the individual was a beneficiary of any of your assets, you will need to initiate those changes.
This is only a partial list. Your financial advisor and/or attorney will be able to help further.