Checklist for when a loved one passes away

Couple on a beachLosing a loved one can be overwhelming. Taking care of financial tasks may feel like a low priority in the moment. However, tackling financial matters soon after a death means peace of mind for family and honoring the memory of those passed.  

Here are some items to keep in mind during this difficult time. 

Gain access to accounts. Accounts of the deceased can be accessed depending on the situation. 

  • If an account was held by a sole owner, no one can use the checking account or a debit card until the estate has been settled.
  • A judge can order that an executor of an estate be permitted to access funds of an account to pay funeral expenses.
  • If an account was held jointly between the deceased and a surviving owner, the survivor can continue to write checks on the account.
  • An account can also be a payable-on-death account, which means the bank will release the funds to a designated beneficiary once a certified copy of the deceased’s death certificate is provided.  

Close credit cards. A loved one’s credit cards should be closed immediately after death, otherwise the cards can be prime targets for identity theft. Notify the credit card company of the death by sending them a copy of the death certificate. You will need to include a letter that states the deceased’s name, date of birth, date of death, social security number and credit card account number. Don’t forget to include your relationship to your loved one. When you speak to the credit card companies, make sure you identify any recurring charges and have them cancelled. 

Pay personal loans. It may be tempting to default on a loan held by a loved one—don’t. Failure to pay interest or the principle of a loan can cause problems for beneficiaries and the estate of the deceased. If regular payments are not made, or default occurs, credit can be affected, lowering a credit score by 100 points or more. This lowered credit score may appear on a credit report for up to seven years. If a beneficiary doesn’t pay, he or she may face calls from creditors, have collateral repossessed, or have money seized from checking and savings accounts. 

Transfer stocks. When a person passes away, their stocks are automatically transferred to the surviving spouse. However, if stocks were individually owned, they may be allocated to a beneficiary prior to death. Once a person is designated as a transfer-on-death (TOD) beneficiary, that individual may automatically receive the stock after the stock holder has passed away. If a beneficiary is not named, a probate court will determine who receives the shares. 

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