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.
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.
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). 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
A CPA can help
Your CPA can help. As a trusted, independent financial advisor, a CPA understands the different options available to you. To find a CPA in your area, or to learn more about the services CPAs can offer you, visit www.picpa.org/moneyand life.