Citi Personal Wealth Management
With death comes grief and, as a result, it is easy to become distracted or overwhelmed. This might lead to making mistakes and missing 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 instruction, 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 work with different professionals to settle the estate.
With the funeral arranged, a slew of other questions will arise. Is there a will? Is there a safe deposit box? Where are the passwords to their online accounts and social media kept? 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 instruction 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 instruction 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/executrix or a successor trustee, those who will do most of the heavy lifting from here.
Are you in charge of settling the estate? Your responsibility is to wind down the deceased's financial affairs, figure out what he or she owns, determine the value of the assets in the estate, pay remaining debts and taxes, and then distribute the balance of the estate to the appropriate heirs. To that end, here's a list of people you may need to contact:
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