No matter the circumstances, the death of a loved one is traumatic.
And when it falls to you to make decisions and carry out important tasks during this time, a period of mourning can become even more overwhelming.
If you have never been in this position, we’d like to offer tips to help guide you through some of the financial tasks that will fall to you.
What to Do First
Obtain death certificates. You will want to obtain 8 to 10 copies of the official death certificate to provide to various institutions so that you can, among other things, close bank and brokerage accounts and file insurance claims.
Death certificates can be obtained through most States’ vital records office. Fees and processing times vary based on the ordering option selected (e.g., internet, phone, mail, in-person).
Contact professionals. Early on, you will want to reach out to the deceased’s attorney, executor, and accountant to discuss legal and tax issues related to settling the estate, including filing of any final tax returns.
If you are an executor, you can use resources such as EstateExec™, an online software that simplifies financials (such as calculating overall estate value), explains your duties as executor, creates a plan (including a customized list of tasks with due dates), and helps you keep important information together.
Plan for expenses. You’ll also want to plan cash and liquidity requirements for the surviving spouse (if applicable) and estate. Keep in mind some income payments and access to some financial accounts may be suspended while the estate is being addressed.
Documents to Gather
Because estates can be complicated, we suggest you pull together a few documents that can help you stay on top of bills, provide information to professionals, and inventory assets.
A list of bills. You’ll want to create a list of current bills, which you can share with the executor, so that expenses such as a mortgage or utilities are covered while the estate is being settled.
Legal documents. Gather wills, trusts, and other legal documents such as divorce decrees and/or child support orders.
Financial statements. Collect statements for financial accounts, including checking and savings, brokerage, pensions, retirement, and any alternative investments such as cryptocurrency or commodities.
Property documents. Find property deeds, titles, and other documentation related to real property such as homes, cars, and boats.
Policy documents. Gather life, home, auto, and any personal property insurance documents. Check to see if additional benefits are available due to accidental death: Accidental Death and Dismemberment insurance (AD&D).
As you are able, begin the process of working through the following tasks to ensure your loved one’s affairs are properly put in order.
- Notify banks and other financial institutions of the death of your loved one. If you had a joint account with the deceased and your name is on the account, you will have full access to the funds. However, to remove your loved one from the account, you’ll need to provide a death certificate to the bank.
- To prevent identity theft, notify and freeze credit through Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion.
- Close email accounts, update voter registration, delete or memorialize social media accounts, and notify any password management services of the death.
- If you have not done so already, contact the deceased’s employer to learn about retirement plans in which he or she was participating.
- Contact Social Security to confirm what medical or other benefits may be available for the surviving spouse, and to notify them of the death.
- If yours is a military family, contact the Department of Veterans Affairs to determine benefit eligibility for expenses such as funeral costs, spousal and dependent VA payments, etc.
- Contact utility companies, subscriptions, clubs, and professional organizations to notify them of the death of your loved one and to change account names or cancel services.
- Call the insurance company to ensure the deceased’s property will still be covered while you manage his or her affairs.
- Notify credit card companies of the death and change names and/or cancel cards. Be sure to ask whether there are any death benefits associated with the card. Many companies provide accidental death insurance, which pay off credit balances in the event of a death.
- Re-title real property, deeds to homes, cars, etc.
We’re here to help
When a family member or loved one passes away, it can be overwhelming to think through the details and decisions that must be addressed. Your Vista team is here to help you get through this difficult time, and we’ll partner with you and any other professionals involved in the financial transition to make things a little easier for you. As always, contact your Vista service team for support through any major life events.