Loved one’s death a trying experience
One of the most trying experiences in a persons life is the loss of a loved one. During the grieving process, you may also feel the stress associated with needing to make many important financial decisions. In order to feel secure, you need to know that your loved ones affairs will be properly managed. You will make many serious decisions, which may have a lasting impact on your financial situation. No one can ever be completely prepared to deal with the personal trauma compounded by legal and financial concerns, but there are steps you can take to help find your way through this difficult period. During this time, maintaining structure in your life is essential as you face increased responsibilities.Estate fundamentalsThere are many aspects of handling the financial affairs of the deceased, and among the most important is settling his or her estate. Almost immediately, there will be matters requiring your attention, including notification of family and friends and funeral arrangements. Let your family, closest friends and most trusted advisors help you with some of these details and short-term decisions but proceed with caution regarding major financial decisions. Its best to contact an attorney to review the will and handle the legal aspects of the estate. A will typically provides guidance for asset distributions and may also appoint an estate executor, as well as guardians for minor children. A probate court determines the validity of a will and ensures that it is executed according to your loved ones wishes. Certain property transfers can occur outside of the will including retirement accounts, property held in a trust, or jointly held property. These assets should pass to the designated beneficiaries (if any), avoiding probate.Depending on the size of the estate, federal estate taxes may be due. Transfers to beneficiaries other than a spouse that exceed the federal estate tax exemption ($2 million in 2007) are subject to estate tax. An unlimited amount may be transferred to a spouse free of federal estate tax. Qualified legal and tax professionals can offer specific guidance.Loose endsAs you tie up loose ends, another important step will be to notify the appropriate insurance companies (life, home, auto, health, etc.) of your loved ones death. Beneficiaries of life insurance policies will most likely receive the death benefits income tax free and, in the event of accidental death, a policy may provide additional benefits. For health insurance purposes, if you were covered under your loved ones group employer plan, you will need to determine what your current and future benefits are. You may need to secure coverage through your own employer, purchase private insurance, or determine whether or not you qualify for COBRA benefits. In certain instances, COBRA, which refers to the Consolidated Omnibus Reconciliation Act, provides for continued health insurance coverage for those who meet certain requirements, such as former employees and their families. Organization will help this difficult planning process go as smoothly as possible. Gather all documents regarding your loved ones assets, including property deeds, titles, insurance policies, and information for investment, savings and retirement accounts. Financial and investment institutions often require a death certificate before they transfer assets to named beneficiaries. Other important items include a birth certificate, marriage license, and social security card. If you are eligible, you will need to file a claim to receive social security benefits.Planning for the futureDuring this transitional period, you may face competing demands on your financial resources. If your loved one was the primary wage earner in your family, it may take some time to assess your financial situation. During the first few months pay the bills that need to be paid, but spend cautiously and pay attention to cash flow and liquidity. As you take things one step at a time, certain deadlines, such as filing taxes, must be considered. Allow yourself to take things slowly; your goal should be to develop a sense of control concerning financial matters. Align yourself with a financial professional who will work with you at your pace and help you gain the knowledge and confidence to take the necessary steps to plan for your future. The earlier you begin to educate yourself concerning financial matters, the better prepared you will be to withstand the impact of facing a sudden loss. Your familys quality of life may depend on your financial skills and willingness to take responsibility.Jeffrey Apps & Tracy Tutag provide securities and investment advisory services through AXA Advisors, LLC (member NASD, SIPC) 1290 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 212-314-4600 and also provide annuity and insurance products through an insurance brokerage affiliate, AXA Network, LLC and its subsidiaries. They can be reached at 926-6911 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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