After the death of a spouse or a loved one, navigating the complexities of estate planning can be emotionally challenging. However, there are essential steps to take to ensure that the deceased person’s affairs are properly managed and that their wishes are respected. Here are the key estate planning steps to follow:
- Obtain the Death Certificate
Request multiple certified copies of the death certificate. You will need these to prove the death of your loved one when dealing with various institutions and entities.
- Notify Relevant Parties
Inform immediate family members and close friends of the death.
Notify the deceased person’s employer, if applicable, to terminate employment and inquire about any survivor benefits.
- Contact the Executor or Trustee
If the deceased had a will or trust, contact the named executor or trustee. This person will be responsible for managing and distributing the estate according to the deceased’s wishes.
- Locate Important Documents
Gather and secure important documents, including the deceased person’s will, trust documents, financial statements, insurance policies, deeds, titles, and tax records.
- Consult an Attorney
Consider consulting with an estate planning attorney who can guide you through the legal processes and help with the administration of the estate.
- Probate or Trust Administration
If necessary, initiate the probate process or trust administration. This involves filing the will with the probate court or following the procedures outlined in the trust documents.
The executor or trustee will be responsible for handling creditor claims, paying debts, and distributing assets to beneficiaries.
- Contact Financial Institutions
Notify banks, brokerage firms, and other financial institutions of the death.
Review and update beneficiary designations on accounts and policies, as they may need to be revised after the loss of a loved one.
- Review Insurance Policies
Contact the deceased person’s life insurance company to file a claim and initiate the payout process.
- Social Security and Other Benefits
Notify the Social Security Administration and inquire about survivor benefits, if applicable.
Check if there are other survivor benefits, such as pensions or retirement accounts.
- File Tax Returns
Prepare and file any necessary tax returns on behalf of the deceased. This includes income tax returns and, if applicable, estate tax returns.
Consult with a tax professional for guidance on tax matters.
- Handle Property and Real Estate
If the deceased owned real estate, work with an attorney to transfer or sell the property as needed.
Ensure property taxes and mortgage payments are addressed.
- Close Accounts and Cancel Services
Close bank accounts, credit cards, and cancel subscriptions or services in the deceased person’s name.
Provide a forwarding address for any remaining mail.
- Review and Update Your Own Estate Plan
Take the time to review and update your own estate plan, considering any changes in your financial situation, beneficiaries, or personal wishes.
- Seek Emotional Support
Grieving the loss of a loved one is a challenging process. Don’t hesitate to seek emotional support from friends, family, support groups, or counseling services.
- Stay Organized
Keep thorough records of all financial transactions, communications with institutions, and legal documents related to the estate administration.
Dealing with the estate planning matters after the death of a spouse or loved one can be overwhelming. Call Roth Elder Law, PLLC at 607-962-6162 or complete this intake form and we will be in touch to schedule a meeting. We can help simplify the process and ensure that everything is handled in accordance with the law and the deceased person’s wishes.