Handling Financial Affairs after a Loved One Dies

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After funerals at funeral homes, the executor of the deceased’s will, who is likely an immediate family member, must move their grief to the side to make sure the deceased’s estate is taken care of the way they specified in their will or revocable trust.

However, grief still has a way of coloring decision-making after a loved one dies, so it’s important that you, as an executor, keep these guidelines in mind.

The first guideline is not to make emotional decisions that you may regret later. Most funeral professionals and financial advisors give the same time-honored advice: don’t make any major decisions – financial or otherwise – in the first year after a loved one has died.

Give grief its time and space. You will find that you will have some very highs and lows emotionally in the first year, and that may lead you to consider choices for the future that you may not really want or that may not be a good idea.

Don’t sell property, change investment accounts, remarry, or decide to move in with one of your children, even if these seem like good ideas within the first year of losing your loved one, because they may not be wise decisions in the long run.

Another guideline is to ask for help with your financial affairs. If your loved one had a trusted financial advisor, reach out to them for help handling finances. They can do all the things that you may not be able to, such as locating all the estate’s financial assets and coordinating taking care of financial matters with estate attorneys, if you have them.

If you don’t have a financial advisor, then get family members that you trust to help out. No matter what, don’t try to handle all these things by yourself.

Without original death certificates, you will not be able to make claims on life insurance, get access to bank accounts and bank security deposit boxes (if you don’t already have access) as executor of the estate.

One of the things that your funeral director will ask you as part of the funeral planning process is how many death certificates you will need. For most people, 20 to 25 copies of the death certificate will cover what needs to be done with the estate. If you need additional copies, you can order them for a small fee apiece.

If your loved one was still employed when they died, call the employer’s human resources department to notify them of the death. While you have them on the phone, inquire about benefits coverage for your family (most companies have a COBRA option that enables you to have coverage until you are able to find a new – and you should look for one – benefits provider), life insurance policies your loved one may have had, and the name of the firm that administers the company’s retirement plan.

Another guideline is to make sure you know where the original will or revocable trust is. These actually can help you know what your loved one had in mind for the bulk of the estate’s financial assets, which will make your job as executor much easier. Don’t forget to keep track of expenses related to your loved one’s death, since you will likely need this when you file the last tax return for them.

If you want resources to help handle financial affairs, our funeral homes empathetic and knowledgeable staff at Hopler & Eschbach Funeral Home can assist you. You can stop by our funeral home at 483 Chenango St., Binghamton, NY 13901, or you can contact us today at (607) 722-4023.