Last week, we offered a set of immediate steps that you can suggest to a client who has just lost a loved one. As a follow-up, the experts at H.D. Vest offer another set of steps you can suggest for the period right after the funeral:

1. Obtain death certificates. Those are usually supplied by the funeral home. Get 10 to 20 original copies, because you’ll need them for financial institutions, government agencies and insurers, and they won’t accept photocopies.

2. Notify the deceased’s attorney and determine if a written will is in place. If so, determine who was appointed executor, and organize a meeting to review the will and handle the estate settlement.

3. Ensure that the executor obtains “Letters Testamentary” or “Letters of Administration” as proof that they have a right to work on behalf of the deceased’s estate. An attorney will help with this process.

4. Collect the following documents:

  • The death certificate(s);
  • A copy of the decedent’s birth certificate;
  • The will or trust;Insurance policies (life, homeowners, health, disability, auto, etc.);
  • The most recent credit card statements;
  • Any unpaid bills;
  • Statements for taxable and retirement accounts;
  • The most recent bank statements (including CDs and money-market accounts);
  • If applicable, the most recent mortgage and home equity credit line statements;
  • The last two years’ tax returns;
  • Marriage and birth certificates (of the deceased’s spouse and children); and,
  • An up-to-date credit report of the deceased.
  • All these documents will help you find accounts and assets and assess outstanding debts, as well as submit claims for benefits and cash payments that may be due to the deceased person’s beneficiaries and heirs.

5. Contact the following:

  • A trust and estate attorney to learn how to transfer assets and assist with probate issues.
  • The police, to have them periodically check the deceased’s house if vacant.
  • The deceased’s investment advisor, for information on holdings and to change the account registration if necessary.
  • Their bank, to find accounts and any safe deposit boxes. Change the registration on any accounts to remove the deceased.
  • Their life insurance agent, to get claim forms.
  • Social Security and other agencies from which the deceased received benefits, such as Veterans Affairs, to stop payments and ask about applicable survivor benefits.
  • The agency providing pension services, to stop monthly checks and get claim forms.
  • Utility companies, to change or stop service, and the Postal Service, to stop or forward mail.
  • Their home and auto insurance agent, to check coverage during the probate process and to restructure policies as needed.

6. If necessary, the estate’s executor should open a bank account for the deceased’s estate. Any unpaid bills should be paid from this account. If a family member or friend pays those bills themselves, that will increase the net value of the estate and may mean higher taxes.

7. Notify financial institutions, government agencies and others, including the Social Security Administration, insurance companies, credit bureaus, credit card companies, the post office, utility companies and creditors

8. The executor is responsible for paying out any assets to the heirs at the end of the period when creditors can make claims. This period can be as long as one year. Once the claims have been made, the executor can distribute the majority of the assets. Keep in mind that the executor should maintain a reserve in the case of any unexpected expenses.

Caution clients that this list is not all-encompassing, as some estates are more complex than others. But it offers a solid starting point during an emotionally challenging time.

HD Vest Financial Services® is the holding company for the group of companies providing financial services under the HD Vest name.

Securities offered through HD Vest Investment ServicesSM, Member SIPC, Advisory services offered through HD Vest Advisory ServicesSM, 6333 N. State Highway 161, Fourth Floor, Irving, TX 75038, 972-870-6000.