Losing a loved one is extremely difficult. Attempting to manage the financial affairs after the passing of a loved one can be stressful and confusing. If you’ve recently lost someone that you love, it’s important to move fast to preserve their estate. Here are four steps that you can take now:
1.) Take Control of Your Loved One's Social Media Account: If your loved one had a Facebook account and you were designated as the legacy contact, take some time to manage their account. This is a good time to write a post on your loved one's behalf sharing a final message or posting information about the memorial service.
2.) Order Multiple Copies of the Death Certificate: Before you can even start to begin to straighten out the financial affairs of your loved one, you must be able to present certified copies of the death certificate to financial institutions and the probate court. Order as many as you can afford, but I advise clients to start with at least ten. Certified copies of the death certificate can be requested from the State Vital Records Office.
3.) Locate Your Loved One’s Estate Plan (or contact their attorney): Determine quickly whether your loved one died with an estate plan. If your loved kept their estate plan in a safe deposit box, it may be necessary for you to seek permission from the court before being able to access these documents (which is why our firm doesn’t recommend storing estate plans in this manner). If you are unable to locate the original estate planning documents, contact the estate planning attorney who drafted them as it is likely they will have the originals or copies of the executed documents. If your loved one died without an estate plan designating who will be in charge of the estate, have a discussion with family members to determine whether everyone can agree to appoint an administrator of your loved one's estate prior to filing any proceeding with the probate court. If your loved one died with a fully funded living trust, you will not need to file anything with the probate court, but it is advisable that you contact an attorney who can help you with the trust administration process.
4.) Start Gathering Important Information and Documentation: Before we can start the probate process, it’s important to get a good understanding of what your loved one owned and the debts they owed. If your loved one did not prepare an asset spreadsheet or inventory listing all of their assets, account numbers and the location of the assets prior to them passing away, you’ll have to do some investigating. Check the mail to see what statements come in. Request a copy of their credit report once you have been appointed as the executor or administrator of their estate. Reach out to creditors and discontinue payments on accounts that are no longer necessary.
Losing a loved one is a stressful and difficult process, but getting organized can make the task of managing their finances a tad easier. If you are needing guidance on how to handle your loved one’s estate, call us at (404) 267-1377 to schedule your free case evaluation and strategy session.