These are steps to take when a loved one dies

Patricia Hafermann • Benefit Specialist

Managing the affairs of a spouse or loved one who dies can be confusing – especially at such an emotional time. Following is a no-exclusive list of things a family can do in preparation for finalizing the decedent’s affairs:

• Look for a will in the person’s home, a safe deposit box, or filed at the county Register in Probate office.

• Consult an attorney about the need for probate and payment of outstanding debts. A Transfer by Affidavit may be an option for estates of less than $50,000.

• Consult the preferred funeral home and find out if the person had advance burial planning in place.

• Notify a landlord in writing that the person has passed away. This limits the rental liability to two months of rent past the month of notification.

• Notify utility companies if cable or phone can be stopped.

• Notify the Social Security Administration so benefits are not overpaid and the widow’s benefits can be properly paid.

• Notify a life insurance policy. Usually a death certificate is needed to pay out the beneficiary of record.

• Notify a POA agent or guardian that his/her authority has ended.

• Close out credit cards.

• If there is a surviving spouse and property is jointly titled, complete an HT-110 form to notify the county Register of Deeds office that one spouse has passed away. A death certificate must accompany this request.

• Notify Medicaid estate recovery if the person received Medicaid benefits.

Note that many of these actions will require a person who has authority to act on behalf of the decedent meaning the executor or personal representative of the estate. This is a very important role and we recommend that a personal representative consult an elder law or probate attorney to ensure the estate is handled properly according to state statutes. Paying creditors in the wrong order could cause personal liability on the part of the personal representative.

If you have any additional questions, you may call Pat Hafermann, Elderly Benefits Specialist with the Aging and Disability Resource Center at (920) 467-4076.

Source: Published with permission from the Legal Services Team at the Greater Wisconsin Agency on Aging Resources’ Elder Law & Advocacy Center

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