Doctor Love: Bereaved
Sunday, November 13th, 2016
Readers, please send your letters. They can be emails, formal letters or handwritten notes. They are edited solely for grammar and spelling. Also, they are sometimes edited for length.
Dear Doctor Love,
Last month my father passed away and my mother is at a loss as to how to proceed with the legal and personal issues. As the oldest daughter, she asked me to begin the task of going through all of his papers. Some family members are trying to help but they are only confusing me and nobody agrees on anything. Some have already made clear about things they want have from the estate. Where do we start taking care of his affairs?
Start with this: 1) Consult a lawyer! You do not have to hire a lawyer but you need to consult one and lay all of the important documents on the table. He will advise you on legal matters that the doctor cannot cover here. 2) Get ten or more copies of the Death Certificate. Anything you try to do, any accounts you wish to close, government agencies you need to contact, will all require a copy of the Death Certificate. 3) In addition to the Death Certificate you will need copies of the Will or Trust, Insurance policies, last credit card statements, last mortgage statement, last two years’ tax returns and marriage and birth certificates. 4) You will have to notify Government agencies such as Social Security, as well as creditors, utility companies, credit card companies and any persons with whom he may have had business dealing. 5) Cancel any subscriptions, credit cards, memberships and transfer utilities to the survivor’s name.
Here are some steps you need to take and a good lawyer can help you through them. Your attorney can help your mother apply for any survivor benefits she may be entitled to and pay any outstanding bills and taxes. He can also help you take the steps to guard against financial fraud. As you go through personal items, do not throw out papers. Instead, if you decide it’s not important, shred it but keep anything that you are unsure about. Put it away and leave it until you are emotionally ready to deal with it.
As for more personal articles, do nothing at the moment. When the financial issues have been taken care of, try to allow extended family some say in the division of his things like a car or favorite photo. But the first and final decision lies with your mother and you. Let family know that you, or the executor if there was one appointed, will let them know when you are ready to hear their requests.
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