When a Loved One Dies – FAQs and Checklist

Hope Campbell

Unfortunately, losing a loved one not only brings a tidal wave of grief, but what may seem like a flood of overwhelming tasks and responsibilities. Before and after the funeral, you may find yourself having to tackle tasks like administering a Trust, filing insurance claims, and retitling accounts. To keep the process organized, this checklist outlines next steps for you to take in managing the financial affairs of your loved one’s estate. Remember, not everything has to be done today.

Q: What is a Personal representative?

A: The personal representative, also known as the executor or executrix, is a person chosen to administer the deceased’s estate. If the personal representative is not defined in the deceased’s estate documents, one will be chosen by a court. The personal representative is required by law to follow the terms of the deceased’s will and estate plan. This person must act in the best interest of the deceased person’s estate and their beneficiaries, completing tasks such as administering and distributing property, valuing the estate, and filing documents with the court.

Q: Do I need an attorney to administer an estate?

A: Not all estate settlements require an attorney, but many do. Sometimes personal representatives can handle administering an estate without an attorney in cases where everything goes to the surviving spouse or passes through a Living Trust or beneficiary designations. However, attorneys are instrumental in going through probate court, handling claims against the estate, and paying estate taxes owed.

The personal representative should meet with an attorney for at least an initial consultation. The attorney will explain the details of your loved one’s estate administration, including the required probate court filings, how to administer property, retitle accounts, and more. The attorney can help clarify what tasks must be completed by the personal representative and which tasks other family or friends can assist with.

Q: Does the surviving family need to get new insurance policies?

A: If the deceased has jointly owned property with a spouse, ask the insurance company to remove the deceased from the policy and make the spouse the named insured. If the property is going through probate or transferred to a non-spouse, ask the insurance company what options they have for continuing coverage. The insurance company may write a new temporary policy under the estate executor’s name or transfer the existing policy to the person inheriting the property.

If the surviving spouse and dependents have lost health insurance coverage, ask a financial advisor for a recommended local insurance agent. Keep in mind that small businesses (under 20 employees) do not have to provide continuation of health insurance.

Q: Where do I get started? Can my financial advisor help?

A: Estate administration can feel very overwhelming to the surviving family and personal representative. Keeping a list of tasks, prioritized by urgency, can help you feel more organized. Download our checklist that outlines how you can get started. Remember, not everything has to be done today.

Contact the deceased’s financial advisor. The financial advisor can help administer the funds that they manage for the deceased. They can also help answer questions the personal representative may have about the deceased’s financial information.

Important Disclosure Information

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By Hope Campbell

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