Steps to Take When You Lose a Loved One

The population is aging, and we find ourselves more and more having to
deal with the loss of loved ones.  It can
be a very emotional time.  While their
estate documents might be all in place, the documents especially control what
happens months after their passing. So, what happens after death until the will
kicks in?  Having a checklist in place
for family members to follow can reduce their stress, as they go through the
grieving process.  Use these steps as a
guide to set up your own checklist.

  1. Letter of Instruction.  This should be a document that tells family
    members important information like any prearranged funeral plans, organ
    donations, any desired service details.
  2. Make Funeral Arrangement.  If your loved one did not put together a
    Letter of Instruction, then making all the arrangements usually falls to the
    closest relative.  This can be difficult
    for grieving spouses, so a next of kin may need to step in to help.
  3. Notify the Appropriate People.  Friends and family are obvious.  You might think you should notify your
    financial professional and institutions, but you should hold off on this until
    a later time.  Financial institutions are
    required to freeze accounts when they are notified of a passing.  And in some situations, access to those
    account might be needed to pay for arrangements.
  4. Death Certificate. This is usually handled by
    the funeral director, but they will ask for information about your loved one,
    like place of birth, etc.  Make sure you
    know this information when going to sit down with the director.
  5. Meet with Professional.  If your loved one put into place estate
    documents, like a will or trust, then now is when you want to sit down with
    their attorney and financial planner. 
    Getting their advice is important to make sure you do not mess up estate
    plans.  They should also let you know
    what paperwork you will need for the coming months.
  6. Online Access. 
    In today’s world we are accumulating all kinds of online accounts.  Find usernames and passwords for your loved one’s
    accounts.
  7. Put Paperwork Together.  By now you should have the death certificate
    and any other financial paperwork, so you can make any claims towards financial
    accounts.
  8. Paying Bills. 
    Hopefully money was allocated for budgeting and final expense
    bills.  If needed, the executor can pay
    for those bills outside of the estate. 
    Just make sure you keep all the receipts, so you can get reimbursed by
    the estate.

While this is not an exhaustive list, it can be your starting point to
make your own tailored checklist.  And if
you want to take it a step further, use this as a guide to plan out what you
want your descendants to do when you are gone.