Please know that you have our deepest condolences during this time. It is always hard when a family member or loved one passes. It is our hope that the enclosed information serves as a resource for you to help reduce stress and burden during your time of loss. If you have additional questions, we’re here for you and are ready to help.
1. Obtain the Death Certificate
A best practice is to ask for multiple copies in case certain institutions will need an original copy versus a printed copy. Often, the funeral director can help you obtain the certificate, but additional copies may need to be received from the vital statistics office within the county where the decedent passed.
2. Is there a will?
If you are unfamiliar whether your loved one had a will drafted or not, contact their attorney if known. Otherwise, you may need to do a document search of safe deposit boxes or a home residence, or office search to find the necessary information. To ensure safety and liability, it may be advised to seek the experience of legal counsel before proceeding.
3. Letter of Testamentary or Administration
If there is a will, an executor over the estate will be named. Through the court, this executor will be name and given a Letter of Testamentary. If no will, the estate will most likely need to go through a process called probate. You will need to file the appropriate paperwork in the decedent’s county of residence to apply for a Letter of Administration. Once you are named executor of the estate, you may open an estate account to manage end-of-life expenses, final payments, and disbursement of the estate to the beneficiaries or desired recipients of the remaining assets.
4. Contact Financial Advisors and Institutions
As executor, financial institutions can give you information on what assets your loved one had at their institution. Unsure of where your loved one had an account? Keep an eye on mail they have saved for record keeping, are still receiving at their residence, or have reported on tax records. If they have worked with an accountant prior, contact that accountant for assistance in locating those assets, including any retirement benefits or plans you may be unaware of.
5. Contact Insurance Companies
If your loved one had life insurance, you will need to file a claim form to receive the beneficiary benefit or payment. Contact the life insurance company, provide the death certificate and policy number, and they will help to disburse the payment to the beneficiary or beneficiaries. You will need to contact other insurance companies (medical, auto, renters, etc.) to stop payments and receive any prorated refunds owed to the decedent. These companies will require a copy of the death certificate as well.
6. Open an Estate Account
This estate account will be used for any deposits (refunds from service providers, funds received from the sale of assets) as well as expenses such as service arrangements, utility payments due at their residence, outstanding obligations, etc. After all expenses are paid and refunds are received, the estate can be disbursed and closed. To proceed with opening an Estate Account you will need to provide these items: Your Driver’s License Your Social Security Card Death Certificate (Original) Letter of Testamentary or Administration Employer Identification Number for the Estate This Employer Identification Number (EIN) works as a replacement to a social security number. This can be applied for quickly on IRS.gov. If you need assistance, American Partners Federal Credit Union can help you with the process in opening this account.
*Note: Depending on the size of the remaining assets, an estate account may not be necessary. Consult a licensed attorney or state regulations prior to opening your account. Keep in mind, some assets can pass to beneficiaries outside of a will if the deceased set up transfer on death (TOD) or payable on death (POD) instructions. TOD instructions are for brokerage accounts; POD instructions apply to checking and savings accounts, or certificates of deposits. Financial institutions can help you determine who is named as the beneficiary, though you may have to provide a copy of the death certificate.
7. Contact Government Agencies
Often, the funeral director will notify Social Security of your loved one’s passing, but it never hurts to double-check. You’ll also want to notify Medicare, Veterans Affairs or any other agency that had provided benefits to your loved one. If notification isn’t made and payments do not stop, you may need to go through a lengthy and complicated repayment process. Spouses and other dependents of the deceased are often eligible to receive survivors’ benefits, so be sure to ask when you talk to the agencies.
8. Contact DMV
Contact the Department of Motor Vehicles to cancel a license and voter registration, and the post office to decide where to forward the deceased’s mail. Whoever receives the mail can then determine which subscriptions or accounts need to be canceled.
9. Notify Credit Report Agencies
Notify all credit reporting agencies of your loved ones passing (Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian). This will prevent any fraudulent credit accounts or identity theft from happening. If you believe there has been fraudulent activity, contact the appropriate agencies and authorities to dispute those.
10. Prepare Final Tax Filings
Final tax filing needs to be prepared and submitted for your loved one’s estate. If you need assistance in doing so, it is recommended to contact an accountant, tax attorney, or other tax professionals to help you with this process.