When your spouse or a family member dies, you'll need to handle numerous financial and legal matters. While you can put off some of these tasks, others require immediate attention.
To settle your loved one's estate or apply for insurance proceeds or survivor's benefits, you'll need to have a number of documents. Locating these documents (and applying for certified copies of some of them) should be your first step in getting your finances organized.
You'll also need to set up files to keep track of important documents and paperwork, keep a phone and mail list to record important calls and correspondence, and evaluate your short-term and long-term finances.
Settling an Estate
Settling an estate means following legal and administrative procedures to make sure all estate debts are paid and all assets are distributed to the rightful persons. You will be responsible for carrying out the terms of the will and settling the estate directly or with the help of an attorney.
Paying Income and Estate Taxes
You may have to file city, state, and federal tax returns, including Form 1040 (U.S. Individual Tax Return), Form 1041 (Fiduciary Income Tax Return), and if the gross estate is large enough, Form 706 (U.S. Estate Tax Return). In addition, your state may impose a state death tax or an inheritance tax.
Filing a Claim for Insurance and/or Survivor's and Death Benefits
Life insurance benefits are not automatic; you have to file a claim for them. Although most claims take only a few days to process, contacting an insurance agent should be one of the first things you do if you are the beneficiary of your spouse's or family member's policy.
You should also contact your spouse or ex-spouse's employer as well as the Social Security Administration (SSA) to see if you are eligible to file a claim for survivor's or death benefits.
Need Help Planning?
Getting expert advice is essential if you want to make strong financial decisions. You may wish to contact a financial professional, accountant or tax advisor for help with your finances.