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Personal Finance: Parents Death May 16, 2007

Posted by pf in Uncategorized.
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Although it is not something we like to think about, eventually, our parents will pass away.  As part of that process, at some point, you and / or your siblings may likely have the unenviable task of facilitating the funeral arrangements and settling their estate.

Obviously, your immediate focus should be on family and taking care of the funeral.  This task will be made more or less difficult depending upon whether or not your parents already made arrangements or left specific instructions.  In the event you have neither, you and your siblings / other immediate family will need to make some decisions about what to do.  Fortunately, you may have relatives who have gone through this process before or the funeral director whom you can turn to for help. 

A few days after the death, you will need to begin thinking about the financial end of things and how to settle your parents estate.  There are some things which will require your more immediate attention while others may be done over a much longer period of time.

More Immediate Items 

  • Notify your parent’s employer(s) – whether they are currently employed or receiving a pension.  It is a legal obligation to notify them of the death.  By notifying them, you will begin the process to recover any benefits (ex: life insurance, vacation, other) that may be owed by the employer.
  • Notify the Social Security Administration.  You have no doubt heard stories about people continuing to collect social security checks after someone has died.  Don’t do it!  Let the SSA know about your parent’s death as soon as possible so you can avoid any appearance of potential fraud – you don’t want the hassle. 
  • Notify any other agencies such as Medicaid, etc.
  • Obtain death certificates – you will need these to provide proof of death.   How many you will need really depends on your parent’s finances and how many people/ entities will require them.  A good rule of thumb is to start with at least a half dozen or so and get more if needed. 

Longer Term Items

  • Locate your parents will and / or contact their attorney
  • Determine who will be responsible for settling the estate
  • Make an inventory of your parents finances, accounts, property
  • Obtain access to any accounts / properties, etc
  • Notify banks – understand the accounts will likely be sealed once notified and you will have to get permission to access them
  • Notify creditors – but do not agree to or sign anything until you have discussed it with an attorney
  • Locate any insurance policies and contact the company and request a claim form
  • Investigate any other benefits that may be available
  • Locate any other documents such as contracts, etc
  • Pay off debts – but NOT until discussed with an attorney
  • Ensure no insurance policies lapse (ex: homeowners)
  • Ensure nothing goes delinquent (ex: any kind of taxes)
  • Cancel subscriptions, deliveries, etc
  • Arrange for final tax return and estate return

The list above is long and probably not exhaustive.  For those who have never thought about it, it can also be pretty daunting.   Fortunately, there are many resources available to you whether they be a trusted friend or family member with experience, your attorney, or material found on the internet.  The good news is that if you at least take care of the items listed in the more immediate needs section, you will give yourself some time to sort out the rest.

Below are some starters:

H.E.L.P. Checklist

USAA Educational Foundation

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