Guest Author - Sharon Michaels
Losing a loved one is sad and emotional. During this grieving time we don’t want to think about the practical aspects of settling an estate or dealing with the financial aspects of death and yet, it is something we have to consider and be prepared to handle.
The reality of it is, more than likely we will all have to deal with settling the estate of a loved one sometime in our lives. When my father passed away eight years ago, I helped my mother settle his estate. There was more involved to it than I imagined. Luckily mom was an organized person and had what we needed filed away in her “strong box.” I had to tackle this all again when my uncle and then my mother passed away. Believe me, it is not something you get use to doing but it is something you can handle if you have a starting point.
1. Notify your loved one's attorney, financial planner and/or accountant as soon as possible. If there is a Will, this becomes the responsibility of the administrator or executor. This would be the time to contact a professional who understands the financial aspects of settling an estate. Know that there will be fees involved when working with a professional.
2. You’ll need copies of financial documents such as: Credit cards, insurance policies, bank records, income tax records, Social Security number, etc. Some benefits and other legal aspects have deadlines, so use your time wisely.
3. You will need several copies of the death certificate. You can usually get these from the funeral home. You’ll need original copies for Social Security, insurance benefits, etc. There is usually a fee for death certificate copies.
4. Call all the credit card companies to notify them of the death. The outstanding balances need to be paid.
5. Contact all the financial institutions where your loved one had accounts to settle, change or close these accounts.
6. If the loved one was employed, you’ll have to find out about life insurance and other benefits that may be available to the estate.
7. There will probably be outstanding medical bills to be paid. I’ve found from personal experience, health insurance does not cover all the medical expenses.
8. The home may have mortgage payments, property taxes, association fees and utilities that will have to be paid.
9. Unless your loved one made previous legal arrangements, you may have to settle the estate through probate. You can contact the probate court yourself or hire an attorney to handle this process.
10. Income and property taxes will still need to be paid.
This is a brief overview of some aspects of closing and settling an estate. Ask for legal and/or financial help if you feel it is too much to handle – it's worth the peace of mind.
**Check with financial and legal professionals before making financial and legal decisions. This article is not intended as legal, investment or financial planning advice.**
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