Oregon Catholic Press photo
Death of a loved one is hard enough on its own, but includes many details.
Oregon Catholic Press photo
Death of a loved one is hard enough on its own, but includes many details.
Many people have no plan in place in the event of a loved one's death, let alone an advisor to turn to for guidance. Below is a checklist of things to consider when someone near and dear dies.

1. Notify doctor, coroner, and/or police officer (depends on whether death occurs at home or hospital).

2. Determine whether decedent wished to donate tissues and organs. (Look in estate planning materials.) If there are no wishes stated, it will usually be up to next-of-kin.

3. Contact family and friends.

4. Funeral arrangements. If they're not prepaid, they can be paid from the estate of the deceased. This is also something that the deceased may have expressed wishes about in his or her estate plan. Determine whether the deceased will have military or police officer honors.

5. Contact the person's parish. Contact the parish where the loved one is a registered parishioner and let them know your timeline for a funeral Mass. Chances are if the person has received the anointing of the sick, or last rites, the parish will know that the news is forthcoming. Work with the presiding priest of the parish and they will assist in putting together the program which will consist of several details including timeline; priest availability; readings; personal information about the deceased; eucharistic ministers; greeters; eulogies; and reception (some parishes cannot accommodate such a request).

6. Prepare obituary. Again, the deceased may have helped you with this in his or her estate plan.

7. Locate estate planning documents and asset information. Hopefully, the deceased has communicated his or her plan with you prior to death, and hopefully, the documents aren't in a super secret safety deposit box. Having an attorney to turn to at this point is invaluable.

8. Arrange care for surviving family and pets. Guardians for minor children must petition the court to have guardianship approved.

9. Secure real and personal property and make an inventory of all personal property.

10. DO NOT immediately accept benefits (retirement, annuities, investments). Contact your Estate Planning Attorney and inquire about the use of disclaimers. There may be tax savings in doing so.

11. Use a team of advisors (attorney, CPA, financial advisor). There will be many legal, financial, and tax issues that come up and it's best to have the advice of professionals in those fields.

12. Contact an estate planning attorney as soon as possible. If there is a will, it may need to be filed with the probate court by a certain date, and the Federal Estate Tax return is due nine months after the date of death. You may have a state tax return as well; the existence and rules vary state to state. You also only have nine months to decide on the use of disclaimers to save on estate taxes. Without a will in place, probate may need to be opened depending on the size of the estate. If there is a Trust in place, there will probably be a lot of paperwork that needs to be completed, and this is best handled by an attorney. Also, many states require that estates notify creditors publicly, and the estate must remain open during the statutory time period, so it's a good idea to contact an attorney early on so that the clock can begin.

13. Obtain the death certificate. It's best to get several copies, because many of the institutions you'll be dealing with will need a copy.

14. Create inventory of assets (real property, valuable personal property, bank accounts, stocks, retirement accounts, life insurance, etc.). If the deceased has done thorough planning, a spreadsheet of these assets should be with his or her estate planning materials.

15. Compile list of creditors.

16. Notification for benefits and insurance. Provide employee benefits, insurance, Social Security, and Medicare offices with: Decedent's name, Social Security number, date of death, whether death was due to illness or accident, your name and address.

17. Other notification: Veteran's benefits, club and credit memberships, disability insurers, utility companies, homeowners, landlord, anyone providing home maintenance.

18. Contact IRS for new Tax ID number for estate or trust.

19. If the decedent was a business owner,there are obviously additional items to consider. One is whether the decedent had a Buy-Sell Agreement or other type of business succession plan.

Editor's Note:
This list (except number 5 in the first list) was provided by attorney Candice Aiston, a member of St. Agatha Parish in Southeast Portland. More information about her can be found at www.candiceaistonlaw.com.