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Navigating Affairs After the Loss of a Loved One

February 26, 2024

Losing a loved one is undoubtedly one of life's most challenging experiences. In addition to the emotional toll, there's often a daunting list of practical and financial questions that need addressing. At times like these, many turn to professionals for guidance, and we, as your trusted advisors, are here to assist you through this difficult journey.

The Importance of Estate Planning

In the aftermath of a loss, managing grief is only one aspect of the challenges faced. Ensuring that your financial affairs are in order is equally crucial. If you haven't already taken steps to put legal documents, wills, power of attorney, and health care directives in place, we strongly encourage you to do so. We can connect you with an estate planning attorney to facilitate or update your planning if needed.

Be Prepared

We understand that even with comprehensive planning, questions may arise about the steps loved ones need to take after a person's passing. Our family preparedness kit serves as a centralized repository for all relevant information, including the Asset-Map visual, making it easier for your family to navigate the post-loss process.

Immediate Actions

Upon the passing of a loved one, certain immediate actions need to be taken:

  • Request multiple copies of death certificate (minimum 3)
  • Contact trusted professionals (Attorney, Financial Advisor, CPA)
  • Locate will and trust documents
  • Notify financial institutions (Banks, investment companies, insurance, credit card companies, and mortgage providers)
  • Inform current and previous employers
  • Notify government entities (Social Security Administration and Veterans Affairs)

Upon receiving notification of a loved one's passing, we are obligated to freeze all accounts. This includes trading, distributions, and contributions. It's essential to be aware that in accounts with multiple owners, the primary account holder's demise can restrict access for others until a death claim is processed. Since it does take time to transition assets in the case of death, we recommend having sufficient funds in a accessible bank savings account to bridge this period.

Probate Process Overview

Probate, overseeing the distribution of a deceased person's assets, varies by state. In Washington, estates with less than $100,000 in assets may avoid probate under certain conditions using the small estate affidavit process. For estates exceeding $100,000, we outline the probate process:

  1. Initiate Probate
    • File a petition in the superior court of the deceased's county of residence.
    • If there's a will, it must be filed along with the petition.
    • A personal representative (executor) is appointed by the court through Letters Testamentary.
  2. Notice to Heirs and Creditors
    • The personal representative informs heirs, beneficiaries, and creditors of the probate proceedings.
    • Specific time requirements allow creditors to file claims against the estate.
  3. Inventory and Appraisal
    • The personal representative compiles an inventory of assets and has them appraised.
  4. Taxes
    • File final income tax returns for the estate.
    • Consider estate taxes, with Washington's threshold at $2,193,000 in 2024 and the federal exemption at $13.61 million.
  5. Distributing Assets
    • Assets may transition to joint owners or beneficiaries for some accounts.
    • For accounts without designated beneficiaries, the executor establishes an estate account and distributes assets per the will or state laws.
  6. Closing the Estate
    • A final accounting is filed, reviewed, and, upon approval, leads to the closure of the estate.
    • The personal representative is released from their duties.

In conclusion, having a plan in place, completing necessary estate planning documents, taking time to grieve, building a support system, and seeking help when needed are crucial aspects of navigating the loss of a loved one. While undoubtedly challenging, careful planning and professional support can make the process more manageable for those left behind. If you wish to delve deeper into this topic, the replay of our webinar is available [CLICK HERE].

For a comprehensive review of your personal situation, always consult with a tax or legal advisor.

Neither Cetera Advisor Networks LLC nor any of its representatives may give legal or tax advice.