As we mentioned in an earlier blog post, dealing with the loss of a loved one is always a challenge, but it can be especially tough when you’re the one responsible for handling the various financial and legal matters that crop up after their passing. The grieving process makes it difficult to focus on important matters, which can lead to a number of mistakes that can come back to haunt you later on.
The following are a few common mistakes to avoid after the death of a loved one.
Making Decisions Too Quickly
When someone dies, there are certain decisions that are very time-sensitive: for instance, you’ll need to get a legal pronouncement of death as soon as possible once you’ve found out that a loved one has passed away. However, not every decision needs to be made immediately. In most states, hospitals will hold the body until you are ready to make arrangements for its removal, so don’t feel rushed to make decisions. Take your time to find out what kind of service your loved one wanted to have (assuming they left a will) and ask funeral providers any questions you need to feel comfortable about using their services.
Forgetting to Take Care of Household Arrangements
While you don’t need to sort through a loved one’s possessions right away, there are certain tasks you should take care of early on. For instance, you’ll want to lock up any cars that are out in the open. Additionally, you should make arrangements for any children, pets, or prized possessions that might require special treatment, such as a garden. You will also want to turn off the utilities (if the house is going to be unoccupied for an extended period) and remove any perishable foods from the home to avoid dealing with some nasty smells when it comes time to go through the deceased’s possessions.
Sorting Through the Deceased’s Possessions Without a System
It can be tough organizing your own possessions, but sorting through the belongings of someone you’ve recently lost comes with its own unique challenges. Not only can it be emotionally difficult, but it can also pose a logistic challenge if you don’t know how they typically organize things. Before you start going through their possessions, come up with a system. For instance, grouping objects into related categories (legal documents, valuables, items of personal importance, etc.) makes it easier to find things down the line when it comes time to sort out their estate.
Not Canceling Credit Cards and Other Sources of Debt
By the time you finish carrying out your loved one’s estate, you need to be certain that you’ve taken care of anything that could result in further debts. You should call to cancel your loved one’s driver’s license, bank accounts, and credit cards. This will prevent any further debt from being racked up, along with stopping any potential identity thieves from trying to use their accounts.
Not Caring For Yourself
The biggest and most common mistake that people make while managing their loved one’s estate is not making time to take care of themselves. No matter how “on top of” things you claim to be, the grieving process can be physically and emotionally exhausting. Be sure to practice self-care and don’t be ashamed to ask for help when you need it, or to accept it when it’s offered.
Handling a loved one’s estate after they die is going to be a taxing experience, so it is a good idea to have legal help on hand. Even if it isn’t the first time you’ve dealt with an estate, having a professional on board can go a long way towards taking the pressure off and ensuring that you don’t make any of the more common mistakes that come with the territory.
About the author
Founder/Attorney, CCSK Law
I create customized solutions for families to address their planning needs.
I provide plans clients understand. Also, they make sure they know when to use them, and do so affordably. I love the opportunity to break through the legal jargon to clarify issues. We find success when we work through a person’s situation and put the law to work for them.