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When a loved one passes, it is often an emotional and chaotic time. Unfortunately, it’s also a time when you may be called upon to make a number of weighty financial decisions.

Would you know what to do if you found yourself in that situation? If you’re not certain — or would just like to make sure you’re not overlooking something important — the following suggestions may prove helpful:

Establish your authority. Even if you are the sole surviving family member, you will need to prove that you have legal standing to make financial decisions. Check the will to see if you have been named executor and/or ask the court to provide a letter certifying your status.

Get multiple copies of the death certificate. While not a financial requirement per se, having 10–20 copies of the death certificate will make so many other steps easier, such as dealing with financial institutions. In many cases, the funeral home will be able to provide them. Also, you may be able to order them online via downloadable forms, or you may have to visit the county clerk’s office in the deceased’s locale.

Get in touch with current or former employers. Check to see if your loved one was owed any back pay or bonuses, deferred any income, or had accrued any unused vacation or sick time. Also, find out about any pensions, group life insurance, or health benefits that may have been in force.

Contact insurance companies, agencies, and financial institutions. To help prevent unnecessary complications or fraud, be sure to notify the Social Security Administration and the U.S. Postal Service about your loved one’s passing. Also, contact any banks, credit card companies, or utility companies the deceased may have done business with and cancel or transfer accounts as needed.

Submit a life insurance claim. If your loved one was protected by life insurance, request a claim form and submit it along with a copy of the death certificate. Since life insurance proceeds are typically processed outside the probate system, this may be the only money you and any surviving members of your family receive for some time. What’s more, the death benefit is usually free from federal income taxes.

Recovering from the loss of a loved one isn’t easy, especially if you are the one who has to make all the difficult financial decisions. Hopefully, taking these steps will reduce some of the stress and help you to move on through the grieving process as quickly as possible. n

This educational third-party article is provided as a courtesy by Martin Blau and Saul Fisher, agents, New York Life Insurance Company. For more information about the topics discussed, please contact Martin at 917-714-9315 or Saul at 718-486-4667.

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