Caregiving Doesn’t Stop at Death
After caregiving though illness, advanced years, or infirmity, it can be overwhelming to manage that person’s affairs after their death. The process can go on for many months or even years.
There is so much paperwork and getting it organized and then prioritizing the tasks and figuring out what you should and should not do can be daunting. You are already fatigued and grieving.
One in three caregivers say that a top challenge is locating accounts and passwords and 49% don’t have legal authorization to ask providers (such as banks, credit card companies, or email services) to disclose any details or give them access to known accounts.
Gather and Obtain:
Gather in one place all the papers you can locate. You will want to look for:
· Bank records and statements
· Tax returns and paperwork
· Passwords for computer, information on online accounts and social media
· Titles and deeds
· Stock certificates
· Insurance policies
· Information on pre-purchased funeral services or cemetery plot
Divide the papers into categories –lawyer related (wills, living wills, power of attorney), financial (retirement and brokerage, social security, veterans, insurance, paid and unpaid bills, receipts, medical expenses, contracts), and vital records such as birth certificate, marriage license, divorce papers, adoption papers, passport, driver’s license.
Obtain death certificates – at least 10. You will need these to receive any money from the above sources.
Have a basket for bills. When the bills start arriving it is natural to start writing checks to keep balances up to date. If this is not your bill or debt know that unless you are a joint account holder or responsible payor for an account, you do not have to pay off another person’s debt. On a personal note, when my last husband died, he had debts that he had been paying off since before our marriage. But because we kept most of our accounts separate, I was not responsible to pay his bills. The scary thing is that if I paid on any of them even once, the company could now hold me responsible – so check out all bills before you pay. Consult an attorney or adviser to help you determine what you are and are not responsible to pay for, and the correct way to make payments.
If you hold the durable power of attorney, you will need access to computer accounts and financial records. The first step is being able to log into their computer.
When everything is divided up by category, put each stack in chronological order with the newest on top.
Label dividers in a notebook or make folders – on the back of each divider or folder, write related names and contacts.
As new items come in add them to the folders. If accounts are online, print out the monthly report.
Possible categories requiring folders:
· Pension statements – contact information included
· Insurance policies – long-term care, home, vehicles, life – include contact information
· Credit card statements
· Social security or disability
· 401(k)/IRA retirement accounts – contact information
· Checking and saving accounts
· Legal documents
Also set up a folder or binder for all expenses related to the death.
With all the financial obligations you may wish there was more money elsewhere. Who knows, there may be. Check out Missingmoney.com .
Cancel and Close:
Cancel services that are no longer needed – Netflix, magazines, cable, internet, phone. Check bank statements for any items that are reoccurring charges. Again, on a personal note after months of paying for cable TV after my husband died, I realized I never turned it on, so I cancelled the service.
Cancel the driver’s license.
Close credit card accounts.
Notify the following of your loved one’s death:
· Social security administration
· Life insurance companies
· Banks, financial institutions
· Financial advisers, stockbrokers
· Credit agencies – to prevent identity theft, send copies of the death certificate to the three major firms: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion
If you have a joint account, and the co-owner dies, you will likely assume full ownership of the account. While you would likely receive full ownership to the account, it doesn’t mean that you are responsible for paying the decedent’s debts. However, there may be taxes involved.
If you have a joint savings account, the name will be changed to just your own and everything left in the account will be yours. Check with the bank how this specifically works.
In the case of a joint bank account, you are already a signer on the account. You can keep the account as is or close it and open a new one in your name only. You don’t need anything to do this, though some banks may ask to see a death certificate. If the account was not in your name but the money passes to you through your spouse’s will, you’ll need to show the bank the death certificate and complete some paperwork to transfer the funds in the account to you.
One important thing to consider is removing the deceased person’s name from any joint bank accounts. This will need to be done by the person who shares the account with the deceased person and will require closing the account and opening a new one.
Also, set up a dedicated checking account for all expenses relating to the death. This keeps everything in one account that you can share with concerned parties, as necessary.
All of this is very overwhelming. If you have someone you trust, get some help.
I recommend keeping all this paperwork in one space in your home and in labeled project bins.
Take it day by day and do your best. It is all that anyone can expect.
Jonda S. Beattie, Professional Organizer owner of Time Space Organization, and co-owner of Release, Repurpose, Reorganize. She is based in the Metro-Atlanta area. As presenter, award-winning author, as well as a retired special education teacher she uses her listening skills, problem solving skills, knowledge of different learning techniques, ADHD specialty, and paper management skills to help clients tackle the toughest organizational issues. Jonda does hands on organizing and virtual organizing. For more of Jonda’s tips connect with her on Facebook.