Loss of a Loved One

Helpful steps after the death of a loved one

After the death of a loved one, you'll have many important financial decisions to make. These tips can help you.

If you're the surviving spouse:

  • Make sure you are ready emotionally to proceed and make important decisions.
  • Consult with professional advisors knowledgeable about estate settlement and inheritance matters to help you review legal documents and your own personal situation.
  • Collect all of your spouse’s important legal and financial information.
  • Address your immediate financial needs to ensure they are met during the settlement of your spouse’s estate.

If you're the executor:

  • If you have been designated as executor, you will be charged with settling the deceased’s estate, which can be a time-consuming and complicated process.
  • You may wish to hire an attorney who is knowledgeable about estate administration and is familiar with the probate laws of the state of the deceased’s primary residence. The attorney can help you understand your responsibilities as an executor as you work through the following steps:
    • Apply for an Employer Identification Number (EIN) from the IRS to identify the decedent’s estate accounts during the account transfer and estate settlement process.
    • Petition the Probate Court to validate the deceased’s will and certify the executor (or personal representative) named in the will. If the deceased died without a will, the court will appoint an administrator.
    • Publish a “notice of probate” in local newspapers to give creditors and beneficiaries public notice of the decedent’s death and the appointment of the personal representative.
  • To report a death to an insurance company, you will need:
    • Your loved one’s full name, Social Security number and date of death as well as a mailing address where claim information can be sent.
  • To claim insurance death benefits, you will need:
    • Original or certified copy of the death certificate.
    • Copy of police report if your loved one died in an automobile or other accident.
    • Original or certified letter of qualification issued by the Circuit Court if benefits are to be paid to an estate.
    • Copies of trust agreement establishing a trust and appointment of individual trustee if benefits are to be paid to a trust.
    • Copy of guardianship appointment for minor child’s estate if benefits are to be paid to a minor child.
    • Copy of power-of-attorney document if benefits are to be paid to a non-minor beneficiary who has a designated attorney-in-fact to handle his or her affairs.

Take control of your finances:

You may need to make important financial decisions that can impact your current taxes and future assets. To help you with these decisions on your inherited assets, you will want to settle the estate, organize your records, and assess the resources available to you to build on for the future.

  • Organize all the legal and financial documents you have collected for easy reference.
  • Begin transferring assets to yourself and/or designated beneficiaries.
  • Assess your net worth (the difference between your assets and your liabilities) to help you determine new goals and financial plans.
  • Understand the tax implications of withdrawing from your inherited assets and how your income tax situation could change.
  • Determine if all your assets including those you may have inherited, can cover your financial needs.
  • Determine how you can make the most of inherited IRA or Keogh assets.