Losing a loved one is tragic. The loss leaves a void that may take years to recover. During your grief, it will help to have a checklist to guide you through this difficult time.
Several estate planning tools can assist you during the grief period. The most common estate planning items are the family will and family trust. I’d also recommend creating an estate planning file listing important data, contacts and passwords. A “love letter” is also encouraged for the file. The love letter is written to family members with last rites and other suggestions. The estate planning file should bright red so it’s easy to find.
Here are more suggestions to help you during your difficult transition.
- Contact family members, friends and your spiritual leader to surround yourself with those who love you most. Your family members and friends can help with arrangements.
- Contact your local funeral home so they can schedule the funeral. The funeral home will help you obtain certified copies of the death certificate.
- Identify important documents like the family will or trust. The deceased may have also left a letter of instruction or signed power of attorney. These documents will help settle the estate.
- If the deceased was employed, contact the company to notify them of the death. The human resource department will assist you with any benefits which may include company owned life insurance and a retirement account.
- Arrange for dependent care If young children are still living at home. A family member or friend may be your best option to take care of the children while you handle the details for the deceased.
- Pets also need to be tended to during this time. Arranging for your local vet or kennel to keep the pets for a few days is recommended. Reaching out to a neighbor to help feed and water large animals, like horses, is preferred.
- Locate important documents like the driver’s license, birth certificate, marriage license and passport.
- Contact the local VA office If the deceased served in the military.
- Contact the Social Security Administration.
- Contact the DMW.
- Monitor the mail for bills and notices. Contact the post office to notify them of the death.
- Reach out to the credit reporting services so you can monitor accounts and to close the accounts that can be closed like credit cards.
- Identify and protect all valuables. Keep them on your person, get a safe deposit box or leave them with a trusted confidant.
- Contact the local utility companies to transfer services into your name or have them shut off.
- Shut down social media accounts like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snap or LinkedIn. Closing email accounts is also recommended.
- Reach out to the CPA, attorney and financial advisor so they can transfer assets and file tax returns.
- Contact your local bank to set up an account in the name of the estate so you can write checks to pay bills and settle debts. Check with the bank to see if there is a safe deposit box for the deceased.
- Identify the executor of the estate so they can start the process of settling the estate.
- Identify any notes payable or debts to settle.
- If the deceased was a renter, contact the landlord.
- Contact the life insurance company so they can distribute life insurance proceeds to loved ones and beneficiaries.
- If the deceased was your spouse, update your beneficiary information for your investment accounts or life insurance policies. If you have a family will or trust, make sure these are updated as well.
This list may help you get through your difficult time. I’d encourage you to print this list or create your own to include in your important files.
Of course, if you don’t have an estate plan in force, I’d recommend contacting an attorney today so your loved ones can benefit from your proper planning.
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” ~ Matthew 11:28-30.
Bill Parrott is the President and CEO of Parrott Wealth Management, LLC. For more information on financial planning and investment management, please visit www.parrottwealth.com.
July 26, 2017