The death of a loved one is a difficult event to endure. It can become all-consuming and often at the expense of other day-to-day matters that need to be addressed. With the death of a loved one, new matters arise that need to be handled as well. Taking care of everything can be overwhelming. Let’s start with the Don’ts.
3 Things You Should NOT Do After Someone Dies
It’s easy to feel overwhelmed when a loved one, especially a spouse, passes. We have seen many widows and widowers in a hurry to move through the process in order to seek closure and healing, but it’s important not to rush.
- Don’t make big decisions that you are not required to make. You don’t need to decide to keep or sell the house and move away right now. You need time to adjust to your new situation, and snap decisions could be regrettable ones if they’re made without a “clear head.”
- Don’t make major purchases. This is a time when we often see people spend more money than normal. Sometimes it’s due to a lack of focus on finances and sometimes it is due to wanting to “live for today.” Either way, now is a really important time to focus on your finances, and not let them get away from you.
- Don’t be quick to give away money, or “stuff.” Often, we see clients giving away larger gifts to children after a spouse passes, including their own or the deceased spouse’s possessions. First you need to fully understand your new financial situation before you can adequately access whether these gifts make sense. Giving away a spouse’s possessions needs to be well thought out. If not, family rifts can occur, because your spouse may have had conversations with children regarding certain possessions that you might not be aware of.
A Checklist of Things to Do After a Loved One Passes
Here is a big list, in no particular order, of what needs to be done after someone passes to help you during this difficult time. Keep in mind there are professionals such as financial advisors, attorneys and tax professionals that are available to guide you through each item.
- When making arrangements with the funeral home, ask them for additional copies of the death certificate. You almost always need more copies than you think. On average, six to 10 copies are needed.
- Call your attorney. There are many legal matters that may need to be addressed, and your attorney can tell you which ones apply to you.
- Contact Social Security. Your Social Security benefits may change after a spouse’s passing, so you’ll need to notify them ASAP.
- Review/cancel their health insurance. If your insurance is provided by a former employer, you will need to contact them.
- Contact your spouse’s pension company if applicable. Depending on the pension plan option originally selected by your spouse, you may be eligible to receive benefit payments.
- Notify the life insurance company, if applicable to begin the claims process.
- If your spouse was a veteran, contact the Department of Veterans Affairs. Checking with the VA will help you see if there are any benefits payable to you.
- Notify all your financial institutions. This includes banks (change account names), credit cards (remove spouse or close accounts), mortgage companies, insurance companies and all other important bills (change into your name only).
- Contact your CPA. You will want to discuss all of the issues unique to this tax year. This is a great time to retain a CPA if you’ve been doing it yourself. Now is not the time to go it alone.
- Contact your financial adviser. You will need to change account titles, file beneficiary paperwork for IRAs, 401k(s), etc.
- Retitle any assets. Any assets (real estate, cars, etc.) in your spouse’s name should be retitled to your own name.
- Prepare and probate the estate. Your CPA or attorney can often help with this whole process.
- Update your own estate plan. If your spouse was your beneficiary, then you’ll need to update all of your accounts, insurance policies, estate documents, etc. in order to reflect your new beneficiaries.
It’s important to have a checklist to follow during this difficult time in order to keep a bad situation from becoming worse.
This commentary was originally posted by T. Eric Reich, CIMA®, CFP®, CLU®, ChFC® August 24, 2022
**Disclaimer: This material has been prepared for informational purposes only, and is not intended to provide, and should not be relied on for, tax, legal or accounting advice. You should consult your own tax, legal and accounting advisors before engaging in any transaction.