How to deal with the financial affairs of a loved one once they die?

Death brings out various losses to family members who are left behind to deal with the aftermath. Apart from emotional trauma, dealing with finances left behind is one of the most difficult and a rather delicate matter.

The manner in which finances are handled can make or break a family and non-blood beneficiaries.  As a result, it is important that individuals plan on how to execute the deceased’s finances.

Hasty Decisions

Losing a loved one brings out emotional outbursts in people. One can decide to make a rash decision of selling property owned by the deceased such as cars, houses, and real estate. Decisions made out of emotions are not practical since most may be misguided and wrong.

Moreover, requesting expertise of a financial advisor helps one to make right and beneficial decisions. Financial advisors give facts about how to handle properties such as selling, keeping the property and the opportune time to take the advised action. Some things to avoid include:

  • Cancelling the deceased’s active phone number
  • Cancelling their credit card
  • Informing everyone instantly
  • Putting an obituary advert
  • Making a decision without professional guidance.

Even if you are not going to hire a lawyer, you should have professional oversight on every decision. Their phones and credit cards should be open to keeping up with their most recent communication and perhaps memberships that do not reflect on the credit card yet.

In case you lack spousal privileges, forward emails to a 3rd party. Mail volume increases within the first six to eight months.

As much as it is not wise to make decisions immediately, some preventive measures should be carried out for safety purposes. Here is a list of things you should do :

  • Call at least three credit companies and put a fraud alert on the deceased’s social security number and also run a final report on their credit cards
  • Punch a hole in their passport and driver’s license
  • Get necessary paperwork for insurance companies

Preventing all forms of fraud and identity theft should be a priority or else risk years of court proceedings trying to clear the mess.

Get certified Death Certificate Copies

According to the law, it is the right of family members to get copies of the death certificate of the deceased. The death certificate is not just a legal requirement but also crucial for loved ones to use in accessing loans or insurance policy claims.

In case the deceased worked in a company, loved ones should visit and consult on retirement benefits allocated. Also, inquire if the company’s insurance policy extends to the children.

Obtain Letters of Testament or Letter of Administration

Having copies of the death certificate is the first part towards accessing your loved one’s records. You also need to prove that you have the authority to access those records. A letter of testament acknowledges that you have the right to wrap up financial affairs. It is easier to obtain these documents if you have an attorney.

Otherwise, you have to go through probate court where you produce the original will and once the will is validated you are given the letter of testament.

If no will was left behind, the spouse or next of kin is granted approval and becomes the official administrator of the estate. The best will providers will ensure you have a written letter of testament.

Access the Will of the Deceased.

To avoid conflicts among those left behind, a will should be availed. A will stipulates on how the property of the deceased is to be divided among the ones left behind. More often than not, conflicts occur when there are no clear directives on who to own the property. Individuals named in the will take responsibility for the given properties.

Access Financial Documents.

Family members at times do not disclose all relevant information about finances to other members. After the demise of a loved one, a close family member has to be able to locate all financial accounts, shares, and dividends owned by the deceased.

Knowledge about financial documents helps in settling expenses and avoid tax penalties through the filling of the tax returns to relevant authorities.

Whoever is put in charge of the estate is the key driver of all communication. To make sure all financial issues are handled amicably, open communication among beneficiaries is advised.

An unbiased party should be present for guidance and clarity, especially where the will may be misinterpreted to support individuals.

In case of getting an attorney, get one who handles wills estates and trusts. Avoid divorce lawyers and real estate lawyers. As an executor, it is in your best interest to have an attorney to avoid making mistakes that lead to fines and at times, even jail time.

About the Author: Jacob Wyatt