The days following the death of a loved one can be anything but easy. Grief and shock often takes control as you try to process the loss. But during these times of grief, there are critical steps to take to protect your loved one’s estate.
Here are three things family and estate executors should do after someone passes away.
Gather important documents
Before you can begin hunting down the important documents, you will first need to devise a plan to gain access to the decedent’s home. If they were a renter, you may need the landlord’s permission before entering. In addition, you may need to get a court order. This is typically an easier task if the decedent resided with a spouse or other roommates.
Important documents that are necessary during the administration of the estate can include financial statements such as tax records and bank statements. You may also want to remove valuable items from the home, but be sure to keep a list of anything that you end up removing from the premises.
Take immediate action on financial accounts
It’s important that you make stopping at the bank a top priority and freeze any accounts that are in their own name. You will need to provide a death certificate to do so. If there are joint accounts, another account holder will still have access to the accounts with the rights of survivorship – but it may be a good idea to consult with a financial professional beforehand. Payments to creditors must stop before the estate has been administered. It can be a bad idea to attempt to forge their signature to gain access.
Some criminals will peruse obituaries to rob decedents by breaking into their home or stealing their mail. You may want to forward their mail to the executor’s house to prevent mail theft.
Seek professional advice
Benjamin Franklin once said, “In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” Have you ever filed a decedent’s taxes? Few people outside of tax professionals have experience doing this. In addition, there will be other taxes associated with death including estate taxes which are addressed during estate administration. Whether a person passed away with an estate plan in place or not, consulting with a financial planner and attorney as soon as possible can be a wise move to protect their estate.
Speaking with professionals can help ease the stress on you so that you can be given time to grieve. There are many unknowns when it comes to someone passing away and squaring away these important items off-the-bat can help to ease the estate administration process.