Citi Personal Wealth Management
With death comes grief and, as a result, it is easy to make mistakes and miss crucial details after the loss of a loved one. Here are some key items to keep in mind when it comes to death and finances.
Maybe you know the deceased's wishes or maybe this will mark the beginning of the paper chase. You might find funeral instructions in the deceased's will or letter of last instructions, or you may have to canvass family members to find out if anybody knows the deceased's wishes. When arranging the funeral, consider asking the funeral home for at least 10 certified copies of the death certificate, and possibly more if the deceased's financial situation was complex. These death certificates will come in handy as you settle the estate.
With the funeral arranged, a slew of other questions will arise. Is there a will? Is there a safe deposit box? What investments and bank accounts exist? Who is the insurance agent and what policies exist? Was the person receiving payments from Social Security, an employer's pension, the Veterans Administration or a reverse mortgage?
If a letter of last instructions was written before the person died, that will help. It should include a list of bank accounts, insurance policies, investments, real estate, mortgages and other debts. It should also give the location of important papers such as the will and any trust documents, as well as the names and phone numbers of an attorney, tax specialist, insurance agent and financial advisor.
If there is no letter of last instructions or other guide to the deceased's estate, you may have to search through drawers and filing cabinets, watch the mail, pore over old tax returns and, if you can get access, dig through any safe deposit box contents. If you find a will or a trust, it should name an executor or a successor trustee, the person who will do most of the heavy lifting from here.
Are you in charge of settling the estate? Your goal is to wind down the deceased's financial affairs, figure out what he or she owns and what these assets are worth, pay off all debts and taxes, and then distribute any money that's left over to the appropriate heirs. To that end, here's a list of people you may need to contact:
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