In Case Of Emergency: How To Handle A Loved One’s Passing:
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By Mia Bolaris-Forget
When a family member passes on, there lots to do outside of dealing with the loss. And, thinking about all that needs to be done can be quite overwhelming. Still, while, experts agree that when it comes to settling a loved ones “affairs”, there’s no need to rush, knowing what to do and how can be extremely helpful when the time comes to do it.
And, they suggest keeping the following guide handy
When a loved one passes, one of the first tasks that needs to be tackled is making the final arrangements and notifying others of the passing.
Some family members may leave (behind) specific funeral and burial instructions, including a list of individuals that need to be contacted, which can help make your job easier and less stressful. If however you loved one has left little or no direction, it’s all up to you. And experts suggest looking for an address book and using that as your starting point.
Most people begin by first contacting a funeral home or crematorium to help with the arrangements. Plus, if your family member belonged to a particular faith denomination, most people contact the leading authority of that religious organization, such as the priest, rabbi, imam, etc.
It’s also customary to put together an obituary to feature in a local newspaper. And, if this task is too trying for you, you can ask for help from other family members or the funeral director.
The Paper Trail:
According to experts this is a good time to order several copies of the death certificate having enough on hand, especially as you embark on finalizing other business, such as applying for life insurance benefits or summarizing financial accounts down the road. Again, if all this is too overwhelming for you, funeral directors can help handle the task for you or you can get in touch with the health department in the country where your loved one lived.
The number of certificated you’ll need will vary depending on how intricate your loved one’s finances were and what (if any) estate planning they did. As a general rule experts suggest between 5 and six copies for starters, reminding you that you can always get more (later) if you need them.
Now, is also the time to let go of wanting and needing to handle everything on your own, and accepting the offer’s of other’s to help, say experts. You should especially consider securing their “services” with regards to helping clean up your loved one’s belongings, cleaning their house or yours, giving you help with cooking, laundry, shopping or other daily routines and activities, watching the kids, and/or caring for or finding a new home for your loved one’s plants, pets, etc.
It’s likely that your friend or family member was receiving some form of income from some source be it work, a pension, Social Security, or all three. And, legally, each needs to be notified of the passing.
If your loved one was employed or getting a pension, you should notify the company’s human-resources department within a few days of the death. This will also help get you started on the process of getting in order and collecting any life insurance, accrued vacation pay or other benefits that the company or employer may owe the family.
If you family member was getting Social Security check, you’ll need to contact and inform the Social Security Administration as soon as possible. The administration is afraid of fraud and you could be setting yourself up for a heated battle if checks continue to be issued after your loved one’s passing; especially if you wait longer than a month.
Also, if your family member was getting any other government or health services such as Medicaid or hospice care, agencies, such agencies should be notified as well.
In addition to other obligations you’ll need to locate important papers and professionals. Among these, wills, trusts, insurance policies, investment accounts, business and partnership arrangements, credit-card statements and other documentation of assets and liabilities. And, unless your family member had a large or complex estate, you can likely take your time collaborating this information.
On the other hand, if your loved one was part of a business or in the middle of a complex negotiation or transaction, (i.e. selling a home, setting up a trust, etc), you may need to address the issue more quickly. Also, if your loved one had financial advisers including accountants, attorneys, real estate agents, insurance agents, stock brokers, etc., experts suggest contacting them immediately and inquiring as to any outstanding matters that need to be taken care of.
Generally speaking, one person is assigned to be in charge of the deceased members business and matters for settling the estate. And, if your loved one had prepared a will or a trust, it likely should state who is to act as executor (or personal representative) on his or her behalf. And, in the case of a living will, it should specify the successor trustee. The individual identified is held responsible for ensuring creditors get paid, assets are properly appropriated and estate tax return filed. This person is also generally the one who looks into what benefits or insurance, if any, are owed to the (deceased) individual’s heirs.
If however your loved one passed without a will or trust, the laws of your state generally dictate who is in charge, a surviving spouse, and adult, child or parent. A court hearing in this case is usually held to decide who should be appointed as the person in charge and there may even be an ensuing battle if more than one person should want the role.
And, experts add, that if you are the chosen one, but don’t feel up to the task, it’s quite appropriate to decline. But, they add, you should keep in mind that you are allowed (upon being chosen) to secure professional help to assist you with the tasks ahead.
Even the simplest task may give rise to much uncertainty and many questions, so, experts suggest investing in someone who is both impartial and trained in the process you can offer both assistance and good advice.
While an accountant may be all you need for a less complicated estate, you will likely also need to secure the services of an attorney if your family member’s assets exceeded $500,000.
Your best bet say experts, is working with someone knowledgeable who can be helpful in helping you pull it all together. For instance, an accountant can be instrumental in accumulate financial snapshots of assets and liabilities that are required for settling an estate and giving you advice abut financial and tax effects of transferring assets. And, an attorney is generally required if your loved one’s estate was substantial enough to incur taxes (an estate mind you as of this year refers to worth equaling $1 million or more), or if your loved one left (behind) substantial debt; deciding on which creditors should be paid, how much and when.
Finally here is a list of all the things that need to be considered and addressed when confronted with someone’s passing:
· Contact immediate family and close friends
· Assess the emotional effect on the surviving spouse, children and close relatives and friends;
· Organize a support group
· Address donations including those of bodily organs to an "organ bank," if appropriate
· Make arrangement for care of dependents, pets, etc., if any
· Contact attending physician or coroner
· Gauge the need for security at Decedent's residence
· Cancel or make other arrangements for home deliveries
· Contact Post Office and ask them to hold mail
· Check for perishable property and goods (food, plants, etc.), and make sure to arrange for care or disposal
· Locate and review Decedent's expressed funeral and burial wishes
· Contact agent under any power of attorney
· Organize an obituary
· Make arrangements for mortuary, cemetery, burial, cremation, as appropriate
Arrange funeral/burial services
· Contact other members of family and friends
· Maintain records of all payments for funeral and other expenses
· Locate safe deposit box(es), and follow safe deposit box procedures
· Locate wills, codicils, and trusts
· Locate life insurance policies, and other important documents, relationships, accounts, investments, etc.
· Notify Social Security, Medi-Care, and other agencies
· Look into social security, life insurance, union death, employee, and veteran’s burial allowance benefits among others.
· Look into any affiliations and organizations
· Look into refunds on insurance or canceled subscriptions.
· Investigate Keogh and IRA accounts.
· Check into business ventures, partnerships and investment arrangements.
· Set up a meeting with an estate attorney
· Meet with accountants and insurance agents to begin finalizing financial matters
· Get several copies of death certificate
· Address fire, theft, liability and auto insurance issues
· Concur with professionals such as attorneys and accountants to devise and inventory of accounts and outstanding debt.
· Go over credit card and charge accounts and cancel as necessary
· Hold off on paying off any outstanding debt until attorney discuss issues with the family or named executor
· Get a hold of valuations of assets
· Make arrangement for allocations and transfers in the case of a trust
· Make arrangements for filing a final income tax or estate tax return if necessary.
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