Steps to Take Following the Death of a Loved One

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While it's not something pleasant to discuss, certified financial planner, Bruce Hagan says, there's a good chance each of us will probably experience the death of a loved one and find ourselves in a position of helping put the financial pieces in place afterward.

This can be overwhelming but Hagan has a few suggestions for us, including where to start.

Hagan says first and foremost, you will want to create a will. This will help your family members later on down the road. If there is not a will, hopefully there is someone named as an estate executor or even a stated attorney to help.

Whatever the case, Hagan says you need to take actions by priority of urgency and it's helpful to have a checklist to make surer nothing is missed. He says, there are basically 4 areas of needs: 1. Final arrangements 2. Immediate financial concerns of the survivors 3. Accessing all potential financial resources 4. Estate Planning.

Hagan says it's incredibly helpful to rely upon others whom you love and trust while making the final arrangements.

"Don't go this alone if you don't have to. If you can delegate some of the legwork, do so; it may actually be therapeutic for other loved ones who are grieving to feel helpful."

Sometimes Hagan says a prepaid funeral service exists. Possibly the deceased left instructions or named pall bearers. When you contact a funeral home request a "general price list" which itemizes expenses.

"You want a respectful ceremony but the funeral doesn't have to be elaborate. Was the deceased a veteran of a foreign war? That might allow one to be buried in a national cemetery if that's desired," said Hagan.

Also think about those who may be coming from out of town. They will need somewhere to stay.

Hagan says there will also be a need to take care of some expenses so an assessment of liquid assets is necessary. Beyond that, someone will need to take care of attorney fees and maybe estate taxes. An accounting of all assets is needed.

Also ask yourself if there are any benefits available from the deceased's employer such as medical accounts or retirement plans?

"Contact every possible source of life insurance including policies from previous employers, mortgage insurance, fraternal organizations. Are there social security benefits available? Any business partnerships or outstanding loans?"

Finally, you may have to tackle estate planning. Unless there's a very small amount of assets, Hagan suggests utilizing an attorney.

"Even simple actions such as changing account titles or conducting financial transactions, could hinder post-mortem estate planning."