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Now What? A little bit of direction for those dealing with the passing of a loved one.

Dealing with grief when a loved one dies is hard enough, but often you find yourself in a situation where you have to deal with financial and investment matters as well. The uncertainty about what to do next can be overwhelming. The following suggestions may help guide you through the process.

Gathering the Pieces

You may wish to consult with your attorney regarding important deadlines and procedures as some tasks must be completed before too much time elapses.

1.     Obtain death certificate copies. The funeral home can help you obtain them for filing insurance and benefit claims, transferring assets, closing bank and credit card accounts, etc. Additional copies can be obtained by contacting the descedant's local county vital records office, such as Maricopa County, or via online services such as VitalChek.com.

2.     Locate the will. It’s important to locate the will if one has been left. The will names a personal representative, the executor. The executor may be a family member or institution, such as a bank.

3.     Apply for a taxpayer ID number. The executor must apply for a taxpayer ID number for the estate using IRS Form SS-4 (call 800-829-4933, or apply online at IRS.gov to expedite the process). This taxpayer ID number must be included on tax returns, bank and brokerage statements, and other documents filed concerning the estate.

4.     Notify Social Security. If the decedent was receiving Social Security benefits, you must notify their local Social Security office. Benefit overpayments after an individual’s death may result in a difficult repayment process. Visit SSA.gov for more information.

5.     Contact employer(s). Contact the decedent’s current or former employer(s) for information on life insurance policies, pension plans (such as ASRS), and any other retirement plan benefits. The employer benefits representative can instruct you on the process for obtaining forms and filing claims.

6.      Documentation. As you begin the process of gathering the documents necessary to settle your loved one’s financial affairs, be on the lookout for documents that may affect the disposition of the estate or the division of assets. For a downloadable/printable checklist of documents, go to A Checklist for Settling Affairs.

Finally, to help you determine the next steps in this process, consult with family members, financial advisor, attorney, and tax professionals for direction.

Written by Pamela Foust, Strategic Communications

This article appeared in "Financial Horizons " (Q3-2018) , a publication of the ASRS

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