Losing a loved one is perhaps the most difficult situation you face in your lifetime. Emotions range from grief, frustration, confusions, and fear. The legal steps you need to take are often the last thing you want to think about, but the truth is handling these issues correctly is important.
These 4 starting points can reduce or eliminate the stress of dealing with your loved one’s legal and financial affairs:
- Protect financial and personal information. It is easy to lose track of important paperwork and documents when you are overwhelmed with unfamiliar emotions and responsibility. The best initial way to protect a loved one’s personal and financial information is to create a file. The file can be something as simple as a cardboard box. Documents you want to keep include bank statements, bills, notices, letters, requests for information, and any notes or reminders you take. The initial goal is to keep all the information accessible and in one place where it can easily be found. When you are ready, you can begin reviewing, further organizing, and deciphering the information. If you are unsure whether to keep a document or discard it, we recommend holding on it it until you know for sure.
- Keep personal and financial information in confidence. Unfortunately, theft of a deceased person’s identity is not uncommon. It is important to secure credit cards, identification cards such as driver’s licenses and passports, all financial information, passwords you have access to, and any estate planning or tax documents in your possession. Don’t disclose this information to anyone unless they are a trusted advisor and there is no threat the information will fall into the wrong hands.
- Review estate planning documents. This may include a will, trusts, powers of attorney, personal property memos, etc. Estate planning documents can be complex and difficult to understand. However, these documents will play a critical role and often offer crucial guidance in handling the affairs of a loved one. When reviewing these documents, it is important not to write on them. Rather, use post-it notes to mark sections that are confusing or raise questions that can be answered by a trusted advisor.
- Contact trusted advisors. There are a lot of important steps to take when someone passes away. Speaking with professionals who can help shoulder the burden of organizing, explaining, and assisting with all the information you have gathered is one of the easiest ways to experience relief. These advisors may include a law firm/attorney who is experienced in post-death affairs, a reputable CPA, and any financial advisor who may be managing your loved one’s assets.
The bottom line is this: when someone you love dies, you don’t need to struggle alone dealing with post-death affairs. If you have questions about post-death matters, contact our office for a free conversation about how we can help shoulder the burden.