We all know it is never easy when a loved one passes away. Whether it is a sudden death or expected due to age, grieving will be had.
During this difficult time, it is important that you take steps to ensure your loved one’s estate and affairs are managed properly. Unfortunately, money and legacy can bring out the worst in some family members, so the executor of the estate needs to take the lead early on.
The first thing to be done, is to really not do anything at all. Don’t make any unnecessary changes to the deceased's bank accounts, investment accounts, home, cars, or personal belongings. However, you will want to begin collecting information on all of these items, as you will need to deliver the information to the estate attorney. If the decedent was still living at home, general upkeep of the home should be taken care of, in order to maintain the value of the property.
Here are a few specific steps that should be considered, if you are the executor of the estate:
Gather Important Documents
Information on the decedent that will be needed during the estate process will include the original Will, tax returns and bills, death certificate, account statements (bank and investments), pension and Social Security statements, and insurance policies.
In the Will, look for funeral instructions. The decedent may have specified exactly how they’d like their funeral to be handled. Was there a prepaid burial plan or funeral? You will want to confirm this before making any arrangements.
When ordering death certificates, order more than you probably think. Depending on the complexity of the estate, you most likely should order at least 10 death certificates, as every financial institution, government agency, and insurer you deal with during the estate settling process will need their own copy.
Other items that should be gathered include keys to the decedent’s home and vehicle, and any mail that is delivered after death.
Pay Ongoing Bills
The decedent most likely has ongoing bills that will need to be paid before the estate is closed. This can include credit cards, utilities, mortgage, leases, and more. The executor of the estate is responsible to find out all of the decedent’s liabilities and manage them until they are distributed or closed.
Watch For Theft
Unfortunately, the home of a recently deceased individual is an easy target for burglars. By maintaining the home (mow the lawn, water the plants, bring in the mail, keep the lights on, etc.) you will be able to show the house is still being looked after. You may also want to ask the local police department to keep a close eye on the property until the property can be sold.
Another consideration is keeping family members out of the home. As stated above, these times can bring out the worst in some people, and if family members know of any valuable jewelry or collectibles, they could be on the hunt. By collecting all copies of the house keys, you’ll be able to help prevent this issue.
Cancel Online Accounts
With seemingly everyone young and old now owning an email account, social media accounts, and other online assets, you will want to close these accounts to avoid fraud and identity theft. Each site will have their own procedures as to how you can close the decedent’s account, which may require providing a death certificate. By visiting the sites directly, you will quickly learn the steps to take. For example, Google Gmail and Facebook have dedicated pages for you to submit a request to close a decedent’s account.