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After your loved one passes
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The death of a loved one can be a difficult, stressful, and confusing time. To make it a little less overwhelming, here is a checklist of common items to attend to after the death of a loved one.

1) Determine your immediate cash flow needs. It is not uncommon during this time for many to stop paying bills temporarily. Keep your bills current and maintain your credit rating.

2) Gather information about the deceased’s assets and liabilities.

3) Notify creditors of your loved ones passing in writing.  Click here for a sample letter.  Publish a Legal Notice of Death in the deceased's local newspaper.  You are not personally responsible for the deceased’s bills. The executor or personal representative is responsible for paying them from any assets in the estate. Do not pay these from your personal assets. If the deceased’s debts exceed their assets… that is too bad for the creditors.

4) Gather important documents such as the last will and testament, real estate deeds and life insurance policies.

5) Obtain copies of the death certificate.

6) Inform the deceased’s employer.

7) Contact insurance companies.

8) Contact the Social Security Administration.

9) Contact potential sources of benefits, such as trade organizations, unions, fraternities, sororities, clubs, credit card companies, and the Veterans Administration.

10) Contact financial institutions, such as banks and investment companies.

11) Perhaps seek the advice of a professional. Depending on the complexity of the estate, an estate law attorney or probate attorney should be contacted.

12) Do not make hasty decisions. Widows and widowers are often the targets of fraud. Do not feel pressured or rushed to make any decisions that you do not fully understand or have fully considered.

13) Review your distribution option for inherited IRAs and employer-sponsored plans.  These rules can be complex and may require action prior to 12/31 of the year your loved one passes.  Failure to act may result in a stiff tax penalty. 

14) Pull a credit report within a few months of the deceased's passing.  Deaths are public record and, incredibly, thieves have been known to steal their identities.

15)  Depending on the relationship with the deceased you may need to update your beneficiary designations on life insurance and retirement accounts, update your will and review your own life insurance needs.

Click here to access our Inherited IRA decision tree.  Rules for employer-sponsored plans vary.

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