Dealing with a Death and Related Financial Matters

The emotional trauma of dealing with a loved one’s death can be devastating. If you are the one who must also deal with the financial aspects, it can seem overwhelming to contend with all the details. Following is a checklist of items to consider:

  • Your most immediate concern will be to notify friends and family of the death and make funeral arrangements. You’ll probably need to contact a funeral home as well as your loved one’s religious organization. An obituary will need to be prepared, a burial site may need to be purchased, and death certificates must be obtained. Be sure to keep track of all payments for funeral and other expenses.
  • If a surviving spouse and/or minor children are involved, you will need to evaluate their means of support and possibly arrange for care of dependents. In terms of the loved one’s home, you may need to deal with security at the residence, send mail to another location, and arrange for the care or disposal of perishable property such as plants and food.
  • Locate any safe deposit boxes, and follow necessary procedures to have them opened.
  • If the deceased was employed, contact his/her employer to start the process of collecting any life insurance, pay, or other benefits. If the deceased was retired, notify the Social Security Administration and any pension plans.
  • Locate important documents, including wills, trusts, deeds, investment records, insurance policies, business and partnership arrangements, and other evidence of assets and liabilities.
  • Meet with an attorney to discuss the deceased’s estate matters. Depending on the estate’s complexity, you may need to retain an attorney, accountant, and/or financial adviser. While you may be hesitant to spend the deceased’s funds on professional services, these professionals have experience dealing with the financial matters of estates and can help significantly in the process.