Daily Progress, Jacksonville, TX

Opinion

June 13, 2014

Death of a family member checklist

JACKSONVILLE — Losing a loved one is obviously a very emotional experience. The first thing I tell people is nothing immediately has to be done from a business standpoint. While there are certainly things that could be done, I always people to wait. It may take several days, perhaps weeks, for your emotions to settle down and allow you to think clearly. So slow down, take a breath, and realize all of the business and tasks don’t have to be completed in a week. Once you feel you’re ready, use the following checklist as a guide. Again, it’s only a guide. There may be more issues to deal with than what is on this list.

1. Contact your own employer and arrange for bereavement leave.

2. Place an obituary in the local paper.

3. You will need several certified copies of the death certificate. Typically, these take about two weeks for the funeral home to receive them. Photocopies may not be accepted by some institutions.  

4. Locate all estate planning documents, such as a will and trusts, and other relevant documents, such as deeds and titles. Locate any marriage certificate, birth or adoption certificates of children, and military discharge papers, which you may need to apply for benefits. Your attorney will need these.

5. Report the death to Social Security by calling 1-800-772-1213. If your loved one was receiving benefits via direct deposit, request that the bank return funds received for the month of death and thereafter to Social Security. Do not cash any Social Security checks received by mail. Return all checks to Social Security as soon as possible. Surviving spouses and other family members may be eligible for a $255 lump-sum death benefit and/or survivor's benefits. Go to www.ssa.gov for more information.

6. Create a list of the decedent's assets and contact your attorney. Set up an appointment to deliver the list of assets, deeds, titles, and estate planning documents.

7. Arrange to retrieve your loved one's belongings from his or her workplace. Collect any salary, vacation, or sick pay owed to your loved one, and be sure to ask about continuing health insurance coverage and potential survivor's benefits for a spouse or children. If the death was work-related, the decedent's estate or beneficiaries may be entitled to worker's compensation benefits.

8. Contact any IRA custodians or trustees and review the beneficiary designations so that you can arrange to transfer those proceeds in the most tax-advantaged way possible.

9. Locate all life insurance policies. The policies could include individual and group life insurance, mortgage insurance, auto credit life insurance, accidental death and dismemberment, credit card insurance, and annuities. Contact all insurance companies to file claims.

10. Contact all credit card companies and let them know of the death. Cancel all cards unless you're named on the account and wish to retain the card.

11. Ask your attorney to review your estate plan and update if your loved one was a beneficiary or appointed as an agent, trustee, or guardian.

12. Update all beneficiary designations on your own life insurance, retirement plans, including IRAs, and transfer-on-death accounts on which the decedent was named beneficiary.

The loss of a loved one is not only be emotionally challenging but it also puts many business decisions for you to make in motion. Try not to do it all alone. Find a trusted financial advisor who will help guide you through the process. Again, don’t make any quick financial decisions.

Securities offered through Royal Alliance Associates, Inc. Member NASD, SIPC. Advisory services offered through Matthew L. Montgomery, a Registered Investment Advisor, 1504 East Rusk, Jacksonville, Texas, 903-586-3494. Investing involves risk including the loss of principal. No investment strategy, including diversification, can guarantee a profit or protect against loss. This information is not intended to be a substitute for specific individualized investment planning advice as individual situations will vary.     

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