After Losing a Loved One

Ray’s Take The loss of a loved one can shatter your life. As you adjust to not having that person as a part of your world any longer, the painful grieving process can feel never-ending. 

Coping with death is never easy, and facing the mountain of things that need to be handled while dealing with that grief can feel overwhelming. Many people are unprepared to deal with navigating all the laws and requirements surrounding someone’s passing. 

As a first step, you should locate all documents needed to sort things out, including insurance policies, deeds, stock and bond certificates, retirement plans, and bank and brokerage statements. After a death occurs, many legal issues arise which need addressing. Some of them include, but are not limited to: dealing with creditors; locating and probating a last will and testament; handling estate taxes; property transfers and last wishes.

After a loved one passes away, there is a lot more to do than just prepare a final income tax return. It can take a year or longer after your loved one dies before you start feeling emotionally ready to take on major lifestyle decisions. That’s why it’s OK, actually preferable, to wait until you’re closer to ready before you make any financial decisions that aren’t imperative. However, address anything imperative right away, such as changes in tax status and beneficiary designations and re-titling jointly owned assets. 

Settling the estate means safeguarding your loved one’s property during the administration process, paying debts and taxes, and distributing the assets of the estate to those who are entitled to receive it. An experienced financial planner and/or an estate attorney can help you navigate the complex tasks.


Dana’s Take Having recently lost a patriarch in our family, I have been floored to see the quantity of estate-, insurance- and tax-related work required. Add a family business with a transfer of ownership, and the volume becomes staggering. This work can go on for up to a year or more. The surviving spouse is left responsible for complex financial and tax matters. Further, his or her will must be updated after the loss to reflect new powers of attorney and more.

In a family of certified financial planners, you just call one of your sons to handle the mail, trips to the safe deposit box, scheduling with attorneys and so on. Otherwise, be sure that the surviving spouse or beneficiary retains a financial planner, estate attorney or tax attorney. The loss is overwhelming and detailed business matters may get overlooked in the grieving process. 

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