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What to do when a loved on dies?

The death of a loved one is a stressful event. In addition to the emotional turmoil, survivors must deal with a number of financial and tax issues, some of them mundane and some quite complex. Here's a quick guide to help you through this difficult time.

  • After a death, you should first try to locate your relative's key legal and financial documents. If he or she had a will, notify the executor(s). In the case of a trust, contact the co-trustee or successor trustee. You should also notify anyone who holds a power of attorney.
  • If you have been named as executor or trustee, you will probably need tax, financial, and legal advice. Therefore, one of your first calls should be to obtain this help. You will also want to retain an attorney who is experienced in settling estates. This will often be the person who drafted the decedent's estate planning documents, but you are free to use anyone else you wish.
  • If you relied on the deceased for financial support, make sure that you have enough money to cover your expenses for the next few weeks. If you have any doubts, please ask for help.
  • Once you have taken the preliminary steps above, you can generally put financial matters out of your mind for a few days. Soon, however, it will be necessary to send notifications to some or all of the parties listed below.
  • As executor or trustee, you may be required to oversee the probate of the decedent's estate, file a final income tax return, or file an estate tax return. If so, your next job is to gather all of the decedent's financial records. Working with your attorney, can help identify the documents you need and make sense of them once they are located.
  • Depending on the nature of the estate, it may be necessary to hire other experts, such as appraisers, investment advisors, and business valuation specialists. If these people are needed, it helps to get started as soon as possible.

After the death of a loved one, you may need to notify the deceased's -

  • Insurance agent
  • Employer
  • Labor union

You also may need to notify -

  • The Social Security Administration
  • The Department of Veteran Affairs
  • The state motor vehicle department
  • Mortgage and other lenders
  • Credit card companies
  • Banks, brokerage firms, and other financial institutions
  • Utility companies
  • Clubs, associations, and other organizations

Questions about your financial situation?