Top Five Things You Should Do and Not Do When a Loved One Dies
Top five things you should do when a loved one dies
- Locate any originals of Last Will and Testament and Trusts, if there are any. Originals are very important. Gather all checkbooks, bank statements, life insurance policies, most recent bills, deeds, vehicle titles, income tax returns, etc.
- If you believe that you are going to be in charge of the estate matters, including making funeral arrangements, make sure you sign any funeral contract as Personal Representative (not personally).
- Call Valerie in our office at (561) 627-8774 to schedule an appointment. Don't worry, many of our estate administration clients do not live in Florida and we can handle estate matters in any county in the State of Florida.
- Make sure that if there is real estate, that the bills critical to the home are taken care of (for example in Florida, air conditioning is critical to not growing mold and mildew). You may cancel the non-critical utilities such as phone — if no alarm system, cable TV/internet, and even the water.
- Call Social Security Administration (SSA) and report the death. You may be eligible for a one-time payment from SSA.
Top five things you should not do when a loved one dies
- Do not throw any papers out. One never knows what could end up being important.
- Do not rush out to cancel credit cards or pay any medical/credit card type bills of the deceased. The estate process has a special way to handle potential creditors and for creditors to respond in certain time and way to get paid (which could mean more estate for beneficiaries). Don't worry you cannot ruin the credit rating of someone who is already deceased.
- If you speak to a potential creditor (credit cards, hospital/doctor, etc.), do not agree or make arrangements to pay the bill. Better yet, let a qualified lawyer speak for you (see no. 2 above).
- For financial accounts, do not change title to any accounts right away (including those with “rights of survivorship”) or accept “pay on death” benefits immediately. There may be choices as to how the assets may ultimately go or alternatively go, and better ways to benefit you and or family members and you don't want to give up the chance to benefit in the best way for your situation. If possible, do not accept any benefits of financial accounts of a deceased without the benefit of the “big picture” talk with an experienced attorney.
- Do not sell or give away any assets without professional guidance. The estate process involves an inventory of all assets owned by the deceased. Note, for stocks/bonds, there may be implications for the timing of selling certain positions.