In my law practice I counsel many people when a loved one has died. Often there is confusion as to the responsibility of who to notify and when. I would like to take a moment to touch on some recommended steps that should be taken when a death occurs.
- If you are alone, telephone a friend who can spend the next few hours with you. Shock and trauma can bring on unexpected emotions.
- Notify a funeral director and clergy, and make an appointment to discuss funeral arrangements.
- Contact immediate family, close friends, business colleagues and employer.
- Consider arrangements for the care of members of the immediate family including child care and care for elderly family members.
- Locate important papers, such as wills, trusts, birth certificates, social security card, military records, marriage certificates, driver’s license, and passports.
- Notify the attorney who will handle the decedent’s affairs. Make an appointment immediately. This meeting is important to review the estate planning documents regarding distribution of the estate and to discuss estate and inheritance taxes that may be due.
- Notify the decedent’s financial advisor. Decisions may need to be made regarding repositioning financial assets and tax planning.
- Telephone the decedent’s employee benefits office. If the death was due to an accident or an illness certain benefits may be available.
- If the decedent was eligible for Medicare and Social Security, notify the local office of the death.
- Notify life and accident insurers.
- If you need emergency cash before the insurance claims are paid, a cash advance may be available from life insurance benefits. The decedent’s employer may have a benevolent fund available for this purpose.
- If the decedent was a Veteran, notify the VA, you may be entitled to a death benefit.
- Keep a record of all money you or your family spends. These figures may be needed for the attorney and accountant in the administration of the estate.
Remember you are in a highly emotional state. Have a trusted family member by your side in case you have to make important business decisions.
The loss of a loved one is a difficult time. I hope these suggestions will help ease the difficulty you will face.
SinclairProsser Law, LLC is a member of the American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys.