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Linda A. Quinn, C.P.A.

Five Important Things to Do After a Loved One Dies

[MoneyLife100] The loss of a loved one is a traumatic event. During such an emotional time, it can be difficult to remember what needs to be done, such as keeping track of important documents and making hard decisions no one wants to make. The Pennsylvania Institute of Certified Public Accountants (PICPA) provides as a reminder the following steps to take in the event of a loss of a loved one. 

Make Funeral Arrangements 

Have funeral arrangements (burial plot, casket, service, cremation) already been paid for and planned? Did the decedent wish for his or her body or organs to be donated? Check for an advance directive/living will or discuss the matter with the decedent's health care proxy to ensure your loved one’s preferences are seen through. If your loved one was a veteran, be sure to obtain the burial benefit, headstone, American flag with ceremony, if applicable.

Request Death Certificates 

You can obtain death certificate copies by application. You can also request death certificates from where the certificate was prepared and filed (usually a funeral home). Note: many funeral homes provide this service to you.  They can also arrange the American Flag "taps" ceremony for the deceased veteran.

You will need death certificates to claim property that belonged to the decedent, including payable on death accounts, insurance proceeds, among others.

Contact an Estate or Probate Attorney 

An estate or probate attorney can tell you if the estate needs to be probated to distribute the decedent's assets. The attorney can prepare the probate pleadings, such as the letters testamentary (if the departed left a valid will), which will be needed to get access to certain accounts, policies, and information.

Gather All Documents 

Get a folder for estate planning documents, deeds, mineral/royalty interests, stocks, bonds, life insurance, IRAs, bank statements, etc. Once these documents are given to an attorney, it can be determined what actions need to take place to get the decedent's property and assets distrusted to the heirs.

Download a Checklist or Get Additional Help 

The American Bar Association published a book called "The ABA Checklist for Family Heirs,” by Sally Hume. You can also get a checklist from AARP called, “What to Do When a Loved One Dies.” It’s important to reach out and ask for assistance. Enlist the help of friends who have gone through similar situations. Chances are they are already looking for ways to help you through such a difficult time.

A CPA Can Help

Your CPA can help. As a trusted, independent financial advisor, a CPA understands the different options available to you.