Few things in life are as difficult as losing a loved one. With such a loss, legal and financial concerns are often neglected, which can end up causing unnecessary grief to those who remain. During this time of sorrow there are several practical things that need to be done.
Talk to an attorney and begin probate process.
As the executor of the estate, you should first consult an attorney. Even if you do not choose to hire a lawyer, advice from a qualified professional could save your loved one’s estate thousands of dollars. Obtain letters of testamentary from the court, which act as proof that you’re legally responsible for managing the affairs of the deceased.
Get your paperwork in order.
A crucial but difficult task is locating all of the necessary legal and financial documents. These include: Social Security information and employee benefits statements; military records; digital account passwords and logins including those for social media; insurance policies; credit card and bank statements; mortgage statements; tax returns; and birth, marriage and death certificates. Depending on the extent of the deceased’s assets, 10 – 20 copies of the death certificate will be required.
Notify financial institutions and pay debts.
Review all of the claims and expenses against the estate – medical expenses, utility bills, credit card debt, etc. – and pay those that are valid. Notify necessary financial institutions and close accounts. Closing all accounts is very important, as the deceased can be targets of identity theft.
Apply for benefits due to survivors.
Insurance policies and financial contracts should be checked for insurance premiums. Cash benefits may be due to heirs. Be sure to ask a lot of questions to find out if survivors are due pension benefits or income from the deceased’s employer, union or the military.
After consulting with an attorney, it’s time to distribute assets to heirs and transfer property titles as specified in the will. Once all the debts and taxes are paid, the remaining assets can be given to beneficiaries.