Losing a loved one is never easy. On top of the emotional distress, you may suddenly have to deal with financial issues you've never encountered. This guide can help walk you through some of the most important steps to take on behalf of your loved one's finances.
- Order multiple copies of the death certificate
Financial institutions and insurance companies will require certified death certificates before they release funds. The funeral home, mortuary or medical examiner's office can provide them for you. Depending on your state, the cost could range from $10 to $25 per death certificate.
- File the will with the appropriate probate court, if needed
Contact your loved one’s estate-planning attorney to determine if you need to file the original will with the probate court and/or open a probate estate. The attorney should have copies of your loved one’s most recent estate-planning documents and can assist you with the probate process. You may need to contact the financial institution that holds the mortgage for your loved one’s real estate to ensure the mortgage and homeowner’s insurance are paid while the estate is being settled.
- Notify your loved one’s employer(s)
Be sure to collect any salary, vacation or sick pay owed. You also may want to look into continuing health insurance coverage and potential survivors’ benefits for a spouse or children. If the death was work-related, you may be able to file a claim for workers’ compensation benefits. You also should contact past employers about pension plans.
- Contact your loved one’s financial advisor
A financial advisor can help determine what investments your loved one owned and help assess the value of those assets on the date of death. He or she also can help retitle assets in the name of a beneficiary or an heir.
- Report the death to the Social Security Administration
If your loved one received benefits, contact your local Social Security Administration office to find out whether any payments must be returned. Additionally, a surviving spouse may be eligible for a lump-sum death benefit and/or survivor’s benefit. To learn more, contact your Social Security Administration office or call 800-772-1213.
- File any insurance claims
Contact the insurance companies where your loved one owned policies and ask about their claims processes. You also should consult your legal or tax advisor to determine whether funds may be needed to pay final expenses or taxes. In the case of annuities, the beneficiary(ies) should consult with a legal and/or tax advisor to determine which payout option is appropriate.
- Reduce the risk of identity theft
Notify your loved one’s financial institutions to retitle or distribute the accounts and cancel any online banking services. Cancel your loved one’s passport, driver’s license and any credit cards in his or her sole name. Review credit card statements monthly to ensure no unauthorized transactions have occurred and fees are reimbursed when appropriate. You also should report your loved one’s death to all three credit reporting agencies: Experian, Equifax and TransUnion. They can flag the accounts as “deceased” to create a permanent credit freeze.
- File a federal estate tax return
You should consult with your legal or tax advisor to determine whether your loved one's estate is required to file a federal estate tax return. State laws vary, but you may need to file state estate tax and/or inheritance tax returns within nine months of the death. In addition, federal and state income taxes are due for the year of death on the normal filing date. If you need assistance, please consult a qualified tax professional.
- Close your loved one's social media accounts
Social media sites have different policies on closing the account of a loved one. In some cases, you may be able to turn your loved one's page into a memorial. Online platforms enforce their own rules on who can or can't access a deceased person's accounts. If you have questions about this, you may want to contact the customer service areas from platforms such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to learn their policies.
Also consider other types of online accounts, such as financial (PayPal, bill-paying), virtual property (air miles, "points" for hotel bookings), business (eBay, Amazon, Etsy), email (Gmail, Outlook, Yahoo), online storage (Google Drive, iCloud, Dropbox) and applications (Netflix, Kindle, Apple).
For additional information on steps you may consider taking after the death of a loved one, contact your Edward Jones financial advisor for a copy of the Steps to Take When a Loved One Passes brochure.
Finally, are you prepared?
Do you have a strategy for your own estate? Sometimes it takes going through a difficult situation to realize the importance of being prepared. If you don't already have an estate strategy in place, an Edward Jones financial advisor can help walk you through the process of prioritizing your goals and work with your team of tax and legal professionals to help ensure your goals are met.
Edward Jones, its employees and financial advisors are not estate planners and cannot provide tax or legal advice. You should consult your estate-planning attorney or qualified tax advisor regarding your situation.
Edward Jones is a licensed insurance producer in all states and Washington, D.C., through Edward D. Jones & Co., L.P., and in California, New Mexico and Massachusetts through Edward Jones Insurance Agency of California, L.L.C.; Edward Jones Insurance Agency of New Mexico, L.L.C.; and Edward Jones Insurance Agency of Massachusetts, L.L.C.