Every once in a while I get the opportunity to step back into the role of funeral director, whether it be at the funeral home or by helping friends and family back in my hometown. In this particular instance I offered my assistance to my friend when her sister died after succumbing to a heart attack. While I didn’t actually act as the funeral director, I was there in a consultant type of a role.
Most of my help is now coming in the form of what we call “aftercare”. There are really two components of aftercare. One being grief related and the other being financial. I have focused on grief aftercare in past articles so this article will be focused on financial aftercare. My friend’s sister, who I will refer to as Nancy, suffered from medical issues for quite some time, but they weren’t deemed to be so serious as to think that death would occur so quickly. Nancy was a very independent person. She was a single parent who raised a wonderful son while also having a very successful career. She was always going to “get to that” financial planning and estate planning “stuff”. But, not unlike a lot of people, she ran out of time. So, as a result, when she died somewhat unexpectedly, her financial affairs weren’t quite in order.
Because Nancy hadn’t had the chance to put things in order, the family is now faced with the daunting task of settling her estate. Anyone who has gone through this process knows the amount of time and effort this takes, especially when there is not a will, nor any direction whatsoever.
Each person’s estate is different and can be fairly simple or extremely complex depending on the amount of assets and /or debts. As part of our service to our families, we have many different forms and suggestions available to families that will assist them. One good example is a form letter to credit card companies canceling credit card accounts. When settling estates, especially unexpectedly, there are many, “wow, we never thought about that” moments. We also will assist you with Social Security notification. We will send Social Security all of the information they need so you don’t have to contact them at all. Life insurance tends to be a hurdle depending on the company. We’ll help families initiate the contact with the appropriate places to get the ball rolling on filing claim information. The insurance companies, by law, have a month to respond to the death claim; however, most companies are quicker than that, especially when the claims are filed promptly.
Another area, albeit, not necessarily financial is how to deal with canceling any online and social media accounts a person may have had. Many people pay their bills online today and as we all know, there are passwords upon passwords and then more passwords to get into anything online. Many companies (rightfully so) are very strict about giving out password information over the phone, because of the potential for “hacking”. Also, as foolish and unimportant as canceling a Facebook account might seem, it is important to do. Unless you are going to actively maintain the deceased persons Facebook account as a memorial, it is best to cancel to avoid any embarrassing or untimely “hacking” situations.
Ultimately, the best thing to do is make your estate planning a priority no matter what your age. You can do a lot of estate planning just by writing things down and putting it in a safe place (and telling somebody where it is!), but the best thing to do is contact an attorney to help you. However, if you do find yourself in a situation like my friend is with her sister Nancy’s estate, don’t hesitate to call upon us. We will do all we can to help, and we will get you pointed in the right direction.