Real Life Resources

When a Loved One Dies

It’s always tough when someone close passes away. And if you’re the one handling your loved one’s affairs, you have to be ready to take care of business too.

A Crucial Document

There are many details to arrange with the funeral home, but the most critical financial task is to obtain multiple copies of the death certificate.  Among the reasons:

  1. All financial agencies, banks, and government institutions will require you to present a death certificate to settle the person’s accounts.
    1. Ask the funeral home for at least 10 certified copies (the ones with a raised seal). Don’t settle for a stack run through the copy machine.
    2. You will need a death certificate to close a bank account, close or transfer credit card statements (to a spouse, for instance) and collect insurance.
    3. Hang onto the certified certificates for the future. Most places will only need to see the certificate, not keep it, and some will accept copies.

Spreading the Word

While family and friends will want to know the news immediately, try to steer clear of social networking sites to avoid ghouls who troll for death announcements to perpetrate ID theft or other scams. But other organizations need to be informed:

  1. Credit card companies to cancel or change the card to a survivor; check for automatic bill pays through the card
  2. Utilities (land line, cell phone, electric, gas, water, oil)
  3. Banks where the deceased had checking or savings accounts and possibly automatic bill pays
  4. Postal address; email and social networking accounts; online, magazine and newspaper subscriptions; alumni association or special interest memberships; gardening or pest control services—they all should be canceled or transferred to a spouse if desired
  5. Social Security (www.ss.gov or call 800-772-1213)
    1. There’s a modest onetime benefit of $255
    2. A spouse or children may qualify for SS survivor’s benefits
  6. Applicable military branch: the spouse and dependents of the person who served may be entitled to benefits

The Paper Chase

This step is much simpler when you know where the important papers are, whether it’s a safety deposit box, home safe or just a file drawer. Copies may also be filed at the offices of the attorney or financial adviser. Here’s what you need to find:

  1. Copy of the will and contact information for the attorney and financial adviser
  2. Home or co-op mortgages; car financing or lease agreements, credit card statements (and credit report), checking and savings account information
  3. Insurance information (life, homeowners, disability, auto)
  4. Social Security benefit information
  5. IRAs, pension, 401k, 403b statements
  6. Taxable investment accounts and brokerage accounts
  7. Tax returns for two years
  8. Marriage license, birth certificates of survivors, military papers
  9. Healthcare Proxy

The more organized you are, the less stress down the line. But with so much to deal with all at once it’s bound to take its toll. When the inevitable comes, don’t be shy about asking for support from family, friends and your financial team as well.

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Gerstein Fisher
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