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Steps to Take After the Death of a Loved One

The list of things that must be done following a death -- and the decisions the surviving family members are required to make – can be overwhelming, writes MSN Money columnist Liz Pulliam Weston. Even people who keep good financial records can leave challenges for their survivors. Weston devotes a recent column to steps that need to be taken following a death, and she advises her readers to keep her advice handy.

She quotes estate planning attorney Jon J. Gallo that in most cases there is no cause for haste.

“The family needs some time to pull itself together and recoup,” says Gallo, who lectures on estate planning and insurance. “In most cases, there really isn't any reason you have to rush.”

One exception is Social Security, which should be notified promptly, no longer than a month from death. If checks are issued following death, you could be in for a battle. (For more on Social Security's death procedures, click on http://www.ssa.gov/pubs/deathbenefits.htm)

Weston also advises ordering several copies of the death certificate so that they will be available when applying for any life insurance benefits or financial accounts. Attorney Gallo suggests five or six copies to start with.

Any other sources of income in addition to Social Security need to be told of the death.

Weston recommends the checklist “Things to Do When a Person Dies,” offered free by Health and Elder Law Programs (H.E.L.P.), a non-profit organization started by a California elder law attorney Ed Long. The checklist, which comes in a California or non-California version, helps survivors sort out and keep track of the things that need to be handled after a person has died. For more, click on http://www.help4srs.org/end_of_life/death_checklist.htm.

She also addresses the question of whether and when a professional should be brought in to give advice. Attorney Long advises that because questions will come up with even the simplest estate, it's smart to hire someone who understands the process and who can give you good advice.


To read the full MSN Money article, click here.

For more on estate administration, click here.