Steps to Take When You Lose a Loved One

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Steps to Take When You Lose a Loved One


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December 02, 2019

The population is aging, and we find ourselves more and more having to deal with the loss of loved ones.  It can be a very emotional time.  While their estate documents might be all in place, the documents especially control what happens months after their passing. So, what happens after death until the will kicks in?  Having a checklist in place for family members to follow can reduce their stress, as they go through the grieving process.  Use these steps as a guide to set up your own checklist.

  1. Letter of Instruction.  This should be a document that tells family members important information like any prearranged funeral plans, organ donations, any desired service details.
  2. Make Funeral Arrangement.  If your loved one did not put together a Letter of Instruction, then making all the arrangements usually falls to the closest relative.  This can be difficult for grieving spouses, so a next of kin may need to step in to help.
  3. Notify the Appropriate People.  Friends and family are obvious.  You might think you should notify your financial professional and institutions, but you should hold off on this until a later time.  Financial institutions are required to freeze accounts when they are notified of a passing.  And in some situations, access to those account might be needed to pay for arrangements.
  4. Death Certificate. This is usually handled by the funeral director, but they will ask for information about your loved one, like place of birth, etc.  Make sure you know this information when going to sit down with the director.
  5. Meet with Professional.  If your loved one put into place estate documents, like a will or trust, then now is when you want to sit down with their attorney and financial planner.  Getting their advice is important to make sure you do not mess up estate plans.  They should also let you know what paperwork you will need for the coming months.
  6. Online Access.  In today’s world we are accumulating all kinds of online accounts.  Find usernames and passwords for your loved one’s accounts.
  7. Put Paperwork Together.  By now you should have the death certificate and any other financial paperwork, so you can make any claims towards financial accounts.
  8. Paying Bills.  Hopefully money was allocated for budgeting and final expense bills.  If needed, the executor can pay for those bills outside of the estate.  Just make sure you keep all the receipts, so you can get reimbursed by the estate.

While this is not an exhaustive list, it can be your starting point to make your own tailored checklist.  And if you want to take it a step further, use this as a guide to plan out what you want your descendants to do when you are gone.


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About the author

a man wearing a suit and tie smiling and looking at the camera

Van Pappas

Vice President, Private CFO®

Van Pappas, CFP® - Van is a native of Atlanta. He holds his undergraduate degree in Finance with an emphasis in Real Estate. As a planner for 15 years, he earned his CFP designation from Kaplan University. He is currently the Chairman and founder of the Chamblee Chamber of Commerce and sits on the Downtown Development Authority for the City of Chamblee. In 2012, he noticed the value of helping the X-Y Generations and decided to merge his practice with oXYGen Financial.

Background and qualification information is available at FINRA's BrokerCheck website.

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