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  • Writer's pictureDavid J. Perrotto

What to do when you’ve experienced a loss

Losing a loved one can be a very overwhelming and emotional time. Beyond the emotional challenges, you may also find yourself dealing with a seemingly endless number of financial and legal matters that you might not have anticipated or even been aware of. Grief can make it difficult to focus on priorities and take action. I have included some steps you may need to take, the documents you might need to locate, and the organizations, companies, and people you may need to contact.

First thing you should do is locate the last will and any other written instructions for the funeral and burial arrangements. After that, you should arrange for the funeral or memorial services and burial or cremation. If the deceased was a veteran, contact the Department of Veteran Affairs at ……… about possible burial arrangements. Make sure the home of deceased and their pets are taken care of. Lastly, contact the post office with forwarding information. These first steps are needed immediately after the deceased passes on.

Next let’s talk about what you should do within the first month. First get 15 or more certified copies of the death certificate. You will need these for processing benefit claims, filing taxes, and reestablishing access to financial accounts. Most of the time, a good funeral director will provide you these, if not you can get them from the Bureau of Vital Statistics for a fee. Your first step should be contacting the life insurance companies to initiate your claim. You don’t need the physical copy of the policy, as long as you have the contact info, and the identifying info about the policy owner. Fill out the forms as necessary and get it back as soon as possible. Bear in mind, once all the claim requirements are received, payments may begin within two to four weeks. Start to contact the financial institutions for access to accounts and safety deposit boxes. Change the ownership on any individual accounts that are in the deceased name. Start to make claims for benefits. You will be asked to provide your marriage certificate, birth certificate, social security card, tax forms, and even possibly the birth certificate of a minor child, so have it all handy. Contact Social Security at…. As well as Veterans Administration at …. If it is needed, to stop payments or apply for any death related benefits you may qualify for. You may have to contact the deceased employer by notifying their HR department in writing and on the phone. Ask about their medical, pension, or life insurance benefits as well. Notify all creditors in writing, many of them will want a death certificate. If the estate is complicated at all, contact a legal advisor.

Once you get through all this, which is emotional, and daunting, you want to do the next steps within the first 6 months. Locate, organize, and review any financial records. Look for all the banking and investment account statements, property deeds, bank books, stock certificates, and other financial records. This will be extremely important if you are taking over the finances. Speak to an accountant about estate taxes. Find out if you’re subject to an inheritance, estate, or death tax, and when you have to file by. Calculate your annual income and determine a monthly budget. Write, review and/or update your own personal will, as you may have new assets. Review your life insurance and other coverage's with a financial advisor. You may have realized you had too low coverage or that you don’t have sufficient protection with the new assets you have taken over.

Thinking about death, and all that is needed is never easy, quick, or simple. But with these steps in hand, hopefully it gives you a plan of action to take, to make sure you don’t miss anything important.

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