Online Checking – Inheritance Aftermath | Palm Harbor, FL Patch
– Twelve areas to consider following the death of a loved one.
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My mother recently passed away and, as my father preceded her years ago, the family found itself going through the arduous process of closing the estate. One often thinks it is little more than reading the will and divvying up things accordingly. Not so fast. Normally, there are a lot of other things involved which most people overlook. Having gone through this process recently, I’ll bring my perspective to the table. Those of you who have already undergone this will know what I’m talking about and may have a few other wrinkles to add, which you should include in the comments section of this column. Therefore, think of this as a checklist.
1. There is the matter of the funeral and wake to consider, but I do not want to belabor the point. Hopefully, you will follow the wishes of the dearly departed and schedule it at a convenient time for all parties to attend. Eulogies are typically delivered by family members, but close friends may also want to add their two cents. The point is, consult with the funeral home and make it a respectable affair.
Also, get a suitable number of death certificates from the funeral home. If the dearly departed had considerable investments, get at least a dozen; you’ll need them.
2. Until the estate is settled, someone will have to pay the bills for the dearly departed, such as energy bills, telephone, Internet, cable, water, house payments, lawn maintenance, taxes, loans, etc. If you are paying for this out of your own pocket, keep track of all expenses you incurred, particularly if other family members are going to pay their fair share. If the dearly departed left money in a checking account for such an emergency, make sure someone in the family is authorized to write checks from the account. So, Yes, now is a good time to have your name added to the bank account.
3. Then there is the matter of pets the loved one left behind. Someone has to either adopt them, or turn them over to the pound. If they are very old, you may want to consider euthanizing them. The point is, you are responsible for the pets; try to do the right thing.
4. In all likelihood, the dearly departed will have at least one final Income Tax filing. Yes, the IRS does not give up easily. It will be your responsibility to process the necessary paperwork, either yourself or through an accountant.
5. If you are going to receive a substantial inheritance, do yourself a favor and contract a good financial advisor who can help you place your money in a secure and profitable account. Also, be sure to ask about handling pertinent taxes.
6. Close the accounts of the dearly departed, including such things as telephone, newspaper, credit cards, cable, bank accounts, as well as eliminating e-mail and social media accounts.
7. Cleaning out the residence will perhaps be your biggest headache as the dearly departed may have collected considerable flotsam and jetsam over the years. Your first pass will likely include valuables, such as jewelry and other high ticket items. The second pass will probably include memorabilia, such as photographs and other objects of sentimental value, and anything pertinent to the deceased’s finances. The third pass will be the hardest as you may want to keep some things but now realize you have no room for it at your residence. It’s a hard pill to swallow, but it is impossible to keep everything. You can either rent a garbage dumpster to dispose of items, or this brings us to our next subject…
8. Hire a company to perform an Estate Sale for you. You can do it yourself, but professionals have this down pat. I have heard of three approaches to this; either open up the residence for people to come in and bid on objects, or; the estate company comes in, writes you a check, and carts everything off to be auctioned off elsewhere. A third alternative has emerged and gaining in popularity; namely an on-line auction. In this instance, the Estate Sale company comes in, inventories and photographs everything, posts it to the Internet and then holds an auction a la eBay. One good example of this is CT Bids which is specifically designed for such auctions. This eliminates foot-traffic through the residence which may not be desirable. It you are going to do this latter approach, I suggest you notify as many people in your area about the auction, using e-mail and social media. We tried it and were happy with the results.
Understand this about Estate Sales, in all likelihood you will not make a lot of money from it. Your goal should be to have such auctions simply pay for the disposal of the brick-a-brac in the house. If you have major items you want to sell, you will likely be better off doing it yourself (if you’ve got the time and expertise).
9. After the residence has been cleared of debris, try to put it in good basic shape to be sold. Clean the house, wash the windows, steam-clean the carpets and make minor repairs. If you cannot do it yourself, hire someone to do so. It’s worth it. Do not try to put the house in pristine form as the new owners will have their own ideas in terms of paint and carpet. Just focus on making it clean and presentable.
10. Sell the residence. Go out for bids to secure a reliable realtor, someone who is intimate with the area, the housing market, and will do a professional job. Since the house is normally the largest item in a portfolio, it is taxed and can be hung-up in probate court for quite some time. To overcome this problem, a little known type of deed has been introduced in Florida and other states known as a “Lady Bird” deed. In simple terms, it is a form of co-ownership in a piece of property, and legally transfers the property from one owner to another (your heirs). By doing so, it keeps the house out of probate court, thereby expediting its sale. Be sure to check this out as it saved us considerable time!
When the house finally sells, consult with your financial planner or accountant in terms of taxes to be paid.
11. Depending on the cause of death of the dearly departed, it is not uncommon to have medical bills appear afterwards. This may seem odd, particularly if the person had Medicare or sufficient insurance. My recommendation is to sit on the bills for a few months as the hospital may have incorrectly billed you and not allowed the insurance to properly run its course.
12. The deceased may have had some life insurance. Check it out as you may be the beneficiary. This is one reason why it is so important to organize the person’s files. In addition to life, check out the person’s other plans, such as auto in the event the person died in an accident.
And you thought it would be easy.
Prior to the demise of your loved ones, please consider the following:
1. Clean out old files and debris. Try to do a little each time you visit. It’s like the old expression, “You can pay me now or pay me later, but you’re going to pay me.” Likewise, you’ll either have to address the debris now or later, after your loved one is gone and cannot answer your questions.
2. Have someone in the family given the power of attorney to represent the dearly departed or if they become incapacitated. This can be dicey if there is family politics, but someone should be appointed.
3. Investigate the “Lady Bird” deed and implement it ASAP. You’ll be glad you did. As I said, it is available in Florida and other states.
4. Change the mail address of the dearly departed and have it delivered to your home. It will save you time.
5. Assemble a list of passwords for accessing the person’s accounts, be it for e-mail, social media, credit cards, nonprofit groups, etc. This will greatly facilitate closing these accounts.
This may seem like a lot of detail, and it is, but it should hopefully simplify your life and get you through this process which just about all of us must experience.
Oh, one last suggestion, don’t forget to write your thank you cards for those expressing their kindness during this difficult period.
Keep the Faith!
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Tim Bryce is an author, freelance writer and management consultant residing in Palm Harbor, Florida. He is available for lectures and interviews.
Copyright © 2021 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.
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Online Checking – Inheritance Aftermath | Palm Harbor, FL Patch
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