The death of a loved one is one of the biggest challenges that life has in store for us. And when that death comes with reams of technical details that you have to take care of as well, it can be positively overwhelming.
No one can tell you how best to deal with your own grief. It’s a journey that you take yourself, unfortunately. However, certain guides can help you navigate the waters. Understanding the steps that are necessary in order to close your loved one’s affairs can lift a weight off your shoulders. Here are a few tips to help you through this difficult period of time:
Honoring Their Wishes
The first resource you have to know what to do to close your parent’s affairs is their will. Contact their lawyer or accountant and learn who the executor of the will is. A will should have all the necessary details about your parent’s wishes for funeral arrangements, and the treatment of their personal estate. When someone dies without a will, it’s called intestate. Either way, the estate will have to undergo the probate process. This means that it will be processed legally to determine the validity of the will and to determine how the estate is to be divided and taken care of after someone’s death.
As this process can take a little while, it’s wise to get it underway as soon as possible. If you have concerns about how things will be decided in court, it can be worthwhile to get a lawyer who understands estate law on your side, but it’s seldom necessary, as probate process is usually very standardized. It’s also much simpler if a legal will is already in place.
It’s important to remember that no matter what, you’re not alone in this process. At the very least, you have people like the funeral home, and possibly your parent’s banker to help with arrangements. If you look around, you’ll surely also find family and friends who are ready to help with whatever you need, whether that’s informing people about the death, or managing details of the funeral service. It can also be nice if you have an attorney and/or accountant who can help guide you with closing up your parent’s affairs.
Be careful of who you ask for help, but remember that in the end, it can often be worth hiring a professional to help you settle the accounts of a deceased parent, just to make sure that there aren’t any more loose ends that need to be tied up.
Closing Accounts and Dealing with Finances
This can be the hardest part to deal with after a loved one’s death. A will or a probate will give you the guidance for how to divide up the estate, but there are a lot of technical details that few people think about. Here are a few things that you’ll want to consider:
- Halt their finances: Go to their bank with a copy of the death certificate and do what’s necessary to stop any payments that are being made. If there are automatic payments for utilities and services, they need to be halted. If your parent is still receiving social security checks, they also need to be halted. You’re criminally liable for reporting the death and making sure that no fraud takes place. Close out their accounts when the time is right.
- Guard against identity theft: Not many people think about this, but it can be important to make sure that your parent’s identity isn’t stolen. Report their death to the proper authorities so that their legal status is current.
- Contact organizations that your parent was a part of to see what kind of benefits are available in the case of their death. For example, there might be social security payments to help subsidise the cost of the funeral. Veterans will have certain packages available, and if they’re part of any other organization, there can be resources that will help you make payments for arrangements.
Cleaning up a house after a loved one dies can be a difficult step. You’ll want to lock up their home, clear away the junk, sell or donate their unclaimed personal possessions, and set up a forwarding system for their mail.
Remember not to get too attached to stuff. You don’t need to carry around emotional baggage that actually becomes physical baggage. Instead, write down your memories, keep a few key items, and ask others for memories and pictures.
Finding Personal Healing
Be okay with however you decide to deal with your grief. Embrace your emotions, but don’t be worried if you’re not crying. Everyone processes grief in their own way. However, at the same time, don’t shy away from strong feelings because you’re afraid of feeling vulnerability. There’s great power in those moments, and when you embrace it, you’ll be doing the best job of honoring your parent’s memory.
Hold your remaining family close. During this time, people find themselves doing one of two things: alienating friends and loved ones, or holding them tighter. Studies show that we’re better able to deal with stress and grief when we have a support system surrounding us. Set up boundaries if you need to. After all, no one really knows what to say. They want to help, but they’re feeling awkward and unsure. Tell them what you need from them, and look for ways to spend more quality time together.