Dealing with finances after a loved one passes only adds an extra layer of stress during an already difficult time. It may seem overwhelming if you aren’t aware of their wishes or financial situation. The steps below can help during the process.
Notify Their Financial Institutions
To safeguard the descendant’s assets, it’s important to notify all companies that they have an account with in order to freeze or close them as quickly as possible.
Notify Government Agencies
Be sure to contact Social Security to stop payments and see if you’re eligible for any death benefits. If the descendant had a pension, you’ll also want to contact that agency.
Review the Will and Trust
If you are executor of their estate, hopefully you were already aware of their desires, but be sure to review the documents to ensure you understand their wishes. As executor, be sure to keep track of any expenses related to their death, so that you are reimbursed when the estate is distributed.
Get Multiple Copies of Death Certificates
Be sure to get multiple copies of the descendant’s death certificate. Financial institutions and insurance companies will require these for verification of disbursements and re-titling of accounts.
Ask for Assistance
If the descendant had a financial advisor, don’t be afraid to go to them for help. They should know in-depth the descendant’s financial situation and can help make the process a smooth one. The advisor can help distribute assets that had beneficiary designations and re-title accounts. If there were life insurance policies, they can also help with death benefit claims.
Gather Necessary Documents
If the deceased didn’t have a financial advisor, then odds are their accounts are scattered. Go to their mail and files to locate such things as bank accounts, investment accounts, retirement accounts, insurance policies, outstanding loans, bills and tax returns. This may take some time to sort through and organize, but each financial institution should be able to help you with what is necessary. You can always ask the assistance of a financial advisor as they are likely familiar with the steps that must be taken, and the forms needed.
File the Descendant’s Tax Return
If the descendant had a CPA, you should reach out to them to see what was done in previous years; they should be able to help guide you in what they need for the return. Depending on the size of the estate, an estate tax return may also need to be filed.
Seek Your Own Financial and Legal Guidance
This experience may be eye opening for your own situation. Meet with your financial advisor to ensure that the titling of assets and beneficiaries are in line with your wishes. Make sure that your Wills are updated and that family members know who your financial advisor and CPA are in case something should happen to you.
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