You've laid your parent to rest and are now tasked with managing the estate they have left behind. Unfortunately, estate planning never came up in conversation and you are unsure of where you should start. What are the first items of business that should be taken care of?
Here are four steps you can take to clean up your deceased parent's finances, even if you were left in the dark.
Double up on death certificates
Underestimating the number of death certificates that you will need can result in delays in the estate administration process and it can be a good idea to order several copies. Death certificates can be necessary to collect benefits and access accounts. You can request additional copies from the funeral home.
Locate an estate plan, if applicable
If you don't already have your hands on an estate plan or know if one was executed, you may have to do a little bit of investigating to find out. Estate planning attorneys usually advise their clients to store their documents in a safe and secure location. This can include a safe, safety deposit box or with another relative. Keep in mind that they may have a digital copy of their plan that could be stored on their computer. You may also want to consider asking other family members if they are aware of an existing plan.
It can be difficult for someone to organize their own finances, let alone someone else's, but not impossible. You can start by locating your parent's bank and retirement accounts as well as their tax returns, bills, and loans. Some loved ones will monitor the decedent's mail to locate accounts they may have missed.
Don't be afraid to build a team
You do not have to undertake these tasks alone and you shouldn't hesitate to reach out for help. Family, close friends and professionals may be able to assist you with estate administration. You may want to consider reaching out to an estate planning attorney and financial advisor for guidance.
It's important that you practice self-care throughout the process and ask for help when you need it. While this isn't an exhaustive list of the steps you can take after the loss of a parent, it can give you a place to begin.