Losing a loved one is perhaps the most difficult situation you face in your lifetime. Emotions range from grief, frustration, confusion, and fear. The legal and administrative steps you need to take are often the last thing you want to think about, but handling these issues correctly and in a timely manner is extremely important. The good news is that with the help of an experienced professional, this “business end of death” doesn’t have to be daunting or a heavy burden...in fact, it can simplify the process and reduce costs.
These 4 starting points can reduce or eliminate the stress of dealing with your loved one's legal and financial affairs:
● Gather and organize financial and personal information. It is easy to lose track of important paperwork and documents when you are overwhelmed with unfamiliar emotions and responsibilities. But being organized is a game-changer and can make the entire post-death administration process much easier. Wondering what to do? Create a simple file. The file can be something as simple as a cardboard box. Documents you want to keep include bank statements, bills, notices, letters, requests for information, and any notes or reminders you take. The initial goal is to keep all the information accessible and in one place where it can easily be found. When you are ready, you can begin reviewing, further organizing, and deciphering the information. If you are unsure whether to keep a document or discard it, we recommend keeping it until you know it’s ok to destroy.
● Protect identity and information. Unfortunately, theft of a deceased person's identity is not uncommon. It is important to properly and effectively secure credit cards, identification cards such as driver’s licenses and passports, all financial information, passwords you have access to, and any estate planning or tax documents in your possession. Don’t disclose this information to anyone unless they are a trusted advisor (financial advisor, attorney, or CPA) and there is no threat the information will fall into the wrong hands. It is also important to notify credit bureaus of the death so they can shut down access to new credit.
● Gather and review the most recent estate planning documents. This may include a will, trusts, powers of attorney, lists of heirlooms, etc. Estate planning documents can be complex and difficult to understand. However, these documents will play a critical role and often offer crucial guidance in handling the affairs of a loved one. When reviewing these documents, it is important not to write on them. Rather, use post-it notes to mark sections that are confusing or raise questions that can be answered by a qualified attorney.
● Contact trusted advisors. There are a lot of important steps to take when someone passes away. Speaking with professionals who can help shoulder the burden of organizing, explaining, and assisting with all the information you have gathered is one of the easiest ways to experience relief. These advisors may include a law firm or attorney who is experienced in post-death affairs, a reputable CPA, and any financial advisor who may be managing your loved one’s assets. The bottom line is this: when someone you love dies and you find yourself in charge, be sure to seek professional help. You don't need to struggle alone dealing with post-death affairs. If you have questions about post-death matters, contact our office for a free conversation about how we can help shoulder the burden.
Call the team at Alles Law at 616-365-5055 to schedule a FREE consultation
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