Tragically, now is a moment when many are navigating the loss of a loved one. At the time of writing, 472,920 lives have been lost to Covid-19 in the US and that number only continues to grow. Navigating an estate plan in the shadow of a loved one’s passing is an excruciating task. In an effort to lighten the load in some small measure, we have compiled the tips below which aim to cover the essentials and help you to avoid common oversights made by others who have been in this unenviable position.
1. Let People Know
No doubt one of the hardest steps, this is also among the most essential. In the age of social media, news travels quickly so you will want to let those closest to the deceased know as soon as possible. While priorities vary with each family, the general order that you should follow is: family members, friends, employer and coworkers, acquaintances, both personal and professional, and old friends who may have fallen out of touch.
2. Inform Relevant Authorities and Institutions
Once all individuals have been notified of the passing, it is important to also contact relevant authorities and institutions. These include: the Social Security Office, banks and mortgage companies, financial advisors, personal attorneys, and insurance companies. Often, doing so is the job of the executor of the estate, who may need to look in the deceased’s home office, cloud storage, safety deposit box, or elsewhere for all parties that should be contacted.
3. Obtain A Death Certificate
A death certificate, which you can be requested from either the funeral home or medical examiner, is essential for accessing the deceased’s financial accounts, starting the probate process (if necessary), filing a claim on life insurance, and tending to other personal affairs. While individual states will set different deadlines for obtaining this document, it is important that you address this task in no more than a few days of the loved one’s death.
4. Address Final Wishes
If not already in your possession, now is the time to locate the loved one’s estate plan, including their Will. If specific desires concerning the funeral exist, they likely will be contained here.
In addition to locating physical estate planning documents, it is also important to determine whether a digital estate was executed. Here, you will find the information needed to access online accounts and instructions concerning how these should be treated.
5. Settle the Estate
This can be a long process and yet it need not be arduous with proper professional help. Naturally, you will want to contact the estate planning attorney responsible for executing your loved one’s plan. With their guidance, the executor will need to reach out to beneficiaries and trustees. The need for probate will also have to be determined, outstanding bills will need to be paid, and accounts need to be closed. Finally, assets will need to be distributed. As overwhelming as all this may sound, an experienced attorney will ensure the process unfolds seamlessly.
At the Estate Planning Law Group of Georgia, our goal is to ensure your estate planning experience is as painless as possible. We are here whether you are looking to execute your first plan, update your current one, or require advice on how to process a loved one’s estate upon their passing. Give us a call today at 770-822-2723 or contact us through our website for more on any of these subjects.
Contact Attorney James M. Miskell