Dealing with the aftermath of a loved one’s death is exhausting and complicated. Every day we work with grieving families who are wearily trying to untangle their newly acquired financial responsibilities.
We’d like to think that your loved one had estate planning documents that instructed you about their specific wishes and instructions for burial and funeral arrangements. And that they left you an organized system of important documents.
But we are not naïve. Statistics show that many Connecticut residents have not even prepared their Last Will and Testament. Our hope is that if you are reading this blog, you are one of the lucky ones and your loved one has left behind something you can work with.
Get copies of the death certificate
Before you begin your task, you will need to get multiple copies of the death certificate. The quickest way to obtain this is through the funeral director. We suggest getting multiple copies because a dizzying number of financial institutions won’t even talk to you about your loved ones’ affairs until you provide a certificate.
Consult an attorney
It is always wise to ask advice from a qualified estate planning attorney who could potentially save an estate a lot of money by advising you how to distribute property, settle outstanding debts, file a final tax return, and assist with probate and estate administration matters. We strongly recommend you consult with a Connecticut estate planning attorney who exclusively handles Wills, trusts and estates. If you don’t, the process of settling an estate could be much more difficult and costly, not to mention that you could be placing yourself at risk for potential liabilities.
Gathering the documents you’ll need can be one of the most time-consuming parts of tending to your loved one’s financial affairs. Disorganized record-keeping or not knowing where to locate the paperwork can be a nightmare. Let this serve as your own call to action: create a list of all owned assets, accounts and property and put it in a safe place, then tell someone you trust where it is.
Here are the documents you want to get your hands on. This list is by no means all-inclusive but it’s a good start. You will also need to make some phone calls to notify these organizations about the death.
- Insurance policies (life, homeowners, health, auto, long-term care, etc.)
- Investment accounts (pension, IRA, 401k plans, mutual funds, etc.)
- Bank statements
- Motor vehicle titles
- Deeds and mortgage statements
- Stock and bond certificates and statements
- Credit card statements
- Creditors (utilities, subscriptions, memberships, etc.)
Notify public benefit providers – there may be benefits for survivors
If your loved one was receiving Social Security, Veteran’s benefits or public assistance of any kind, notify the institution immediately.
It’s not much, but Social Security offers survivors a $255 one-time death benefit, and the decedent’s spouse or children may be eligible for monthly survivor benefits as well. The Department of Veteran’s Affairs have benefits sometimes for surviving spouses and may provide financial assistance with funeral expenses.
If you are attending the financial and legal affairs of a loved one, you know the task is anxiety-producing. Let this experience alert you to get your own financial house in order.
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