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Inheritance 101 - Financial Steps to Take when you Lose a Loved One

Inheritance 101 - Financial Steps to Take when you Lose a Loved One


The loss of a loved one is an incredibly personal and difficult time. In addition to coping with your grief, consoling others, and potentially planning a memorial service, there are often many financial decisions that soon follow.

 How do you know what to do? It can feel overwhelming.

Here’s a list of common steps to help guide you during this time.


Advise your Team of Professionals

  • Contact your financial advisor so they can help you evaluate the financial facets of the situation.
  • Contact the deceased person’s estate attorney to verify if they have an estate plan and who the Personal Representative or Trustee is.


Acquire Necessary Financial Documents

If you are appointed as an authorized person (Personal Representative or Trustee) to work through the financial aspects of the deceased’s estate, there are several items you will want to collect.

  • Obtain multiple copies of the certified death certificate. Some companies will not accept a photocopy. This is common with insurance policies and annuity contracts.
  • Obtain a certificate of appointment to document the authority to act as personal representative, if required in your state. Note: the language used to describe aspects of settling an estate can vary in each state.
  • Find the individual’s passwords and consolidate them in one place.
  • Open an estate checking account, if necessary, to pay bills and receive accounts/assets associated with settling the estate. If you open a checking account for the estate, you’ll need to get an employer identification number through the IRS.
  • Locate a local notary, as they will be needed for many steps. You might also need a medallion signature guarantee, which guarantees the authenticity of a signature that authorizes a transfer of securities that are held in physical form.


Update Financial Accounts

  • Contact financial organizations to find out how to update ownership and beneficiary designations on joint financial accounts (investment, bank and credit accounts).
  • Contact financial organizations to determine how to close single-owner financial accounts and transfer assets to the named beneficiaries.
  • Update names and beneficiaries on insurance policies, including life, health and auto policies. Among the insurance providers, also confirm the coverage requirements to maintain the person’s assets (including the car).
  • Advise all three major credit bureaus of the death to minimize the risk of identity theft.


Manage or Update Physical Assets

  • Determine how the person’s assets/property will be maintained during the estate settlement process.
  • Update the property title(s) for real estate. If property was owned in multiple states, review the probate process in each state. (For non-resident states, ancillary probate may be necessary.)
  • Locate the title and registration for any cars, so that you can update the vehicle title and registration; and cancel the driver’s license.


Coordinate Third-party Benefits

  • Contact the Social Security Administration regarding survivor’s benefits.
  • Contact a deceased spouse’s employer (if applicable) if there is a 401(k) account and a group insurance policy. It may also be necessary to contact former employers that may have provided a group life insurance policy. The person may also have retirement plans through former employers.
  • Research veterans’ benefits (if applicable) and possible assistance with burials costs for veterans and their spouses.


Remember that You’re not Alone we're here to listen and can help guide you through the financial implications following the death of a loved one.


If you have questions or doubts, we can help. Call us at (480) 507-2425 or contact us online. We’d love to meet you.  


For a comprehensive review of your personal situation, always consult with a tax or legal advisor.  Neither Cetera Advisor Networks LLC nor any of its representatives may give legal or tax advice

The content in this article was prepared by the article’s author. Cetera Advisor Networks, LLC does not endorse its content, and the views expressed may not necessarily reflect those held by Cetera Advisor Networks, LLC.