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Planning For The Difficult

Until her mother passed recently, Charlotte hadn’t fully realized all that would be required of herself as sole survivor of her birth family. After all, her mother had pre-paid her funeral, the service was planned, casket, music, and photos selected. Charlotte felt she was ahead of the game. After her mother’s passing however, she found herself scrambling to gather information on whom and what agencies to contact, where to locate her mother’s documents, accounts, financial entities, banking information, creditors, bills to be paid, etc.

With no one to help her, she was immensely grateful for online websites that guided her through what was needed. She found Social Security contact info at: HTTP://INFO.LEGALZOOM.COM/NOTIFY-SOCIAL-SECURITY-DEATH-BENEFICIARY-23164.HTML. She also discovered a comprehensive contact checklist at: HTTPS://WWW.OPRM.VA.GOV/DOCS/DEATHNOTIFICATIONCHECKLIST.PDF.

While every case is different, common agencies requiring notification include Social Security, Medicare, financial institutions, pension providers, insurance providers, creditors and credit card companies, the deceased’s attorney and financial planners, and perhaps an employee benefits department.

To initiate this work requires the deceased’s Social Security number and multiple copies of the death certificate, which cost $15.00 each. Normally the funeral home will order the number of death certificates requested. Be aware that it can take several weeks to receive them.

Financial advisors also recommend keeping a joint checking account open for at least one year after the person’s death in case unexpected checks come to the deceased.

By all means, if there are family members or friends who can help, use them.

Keep track of and pay all active bills and premiums and cancel unnecessary services, or change the name on the accounts. It’s helpful to have an accountant, an attorney, a trusted financial advisor or financially savvy friend standing in the wings.

If the deceased is your spouse, conventional wisdom dictates not making any major life or financial decisions for the next six months to a year. This might include selling your home, giving money to your children, moving in with them, or purchasing stocks, bonds, annuities, etc. This is not a time to allow others to influence you. (See: HTTPS://WWW.KIPLINGER.COM/ARTICLE/RETIREMENT/T037-C000-S001-A-TO-DO-LIST-FOR-THE-SURVIVING-SPOUSE.HTML).

Upon the completion of her mother’s death-related business, Charlotte determined she would spare her spouse and children some of the burden of her own passing by gathering into a bank safe deposit box all the information they would need (and where to find the key!).

She listed all agencies and organizations to be contacted, along with their phone numbers and addresses, made a list of all computer passwords and files, and her banking and other financial information. She also has a legal will, including health directives.

While this may seem morbid and depressing, Charlotte says it was a labor of love. She knew how valuable it would be to those left behind. And, when her son-in-law passed a few months later, she was better equipped to help her daughter.

Constance Watkins