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Dealing with the Details of Paperwork The personal information you gathered on your loved one will be needed for items such as the death certificate, writing the obituary, for cancellation or modification of policies and contracts with businesses and personal vendors and for a variety of other situations. As you read thru Dealing with the Details of what needs to be done in this and other areas of the site keep your files of paperwork you gathered nearby. One of the first needs for information will be for the death certificate. Death Certificate Information. Personal information will be needed to complete the death certificate: Full Name, Date of Birth, Age, Sex, Place of Birth (State, Country and City), Social Security number, Military service information, marital status, Surviving spouse’s name, Occupation or what your loved one for most of their life, what kind of business or industry, level of education, race, address as well as parents names. Medical information from the physician or examiner and date of death, how the body will be disposed, cause of death, etc. This information will be given to the official who is recording the death (doctor, coroner, etc). Legal Paperwork Estate Planning Documents. (Wills and Trusts) Seek advice and guidance. It is beneficial to have someone helping you through the process of legal issues surrounding the death of a loved one. In some cases it will be necessary. If your loved one had Estate Planning Documents such as a Will or Trust and you can work with the attorney who wrote the document that would save you time and effort. If not a list of local area probate/family law attorneys are listed here: http://attorneypages.com/539AZ209/index.htm and a Google search of Scottsdale area probate lawyers is here: http://maps.google.com/maps?sourceid=navclient&rlz=1T4ADBR_enUS323US323&um=1&ie=UTF - 8&q=Scottsdale,+AZ++probate+lawyers&fb=1&split=1&gl=us&view=text&ei=oJClSpTyO5TiswPgz qmNDw&sa=X&oi=local_group&ct=more-results&resnum=1 Another resource for locating a lawyer is http://www.martindale.com/ . On this site include wills, trusts and estates in your search criteria and the area that you reside or the area that your loved one resided in your search. Make sure to ask what their fees are and keep records of the costs on your Expense Form. When meeting with the attorney, have all of the items listed on the paperwork checklists that you are able to locate. This will help you expedite the process and save you time and money. If you are unable to afford an attorney you can contact The State Bar of Arizona as they have some listings of groups that can provide free or inexpensive legal help. http://www.azbar.org/LawyersHelpingYou/freelegal.cfm These sites list organizations that can also provide free or inexpensive legal help: http://www.usattorneylegalservices.com/free-legal-aid-Arizona.html http://www.abanet.org/legalservices/findlegalhelp/freehelp.cfm?id=AZ The Will that your loved one created will list a Personal Representative or what used to be called an Executor/trix. If you are working with an attorney they will help you get a Letters of Testamentary or Letters of Personal Representation (if you are the Personal Representative). If there is no Will or it cannot be located, these letters will be issued to the court appointed representative by the Probate/District Court in the county where your loved one resided. The job of the Personal Representative is responsible for gathering a list of the assets of the estate, identify and pay the debts and distribute the remaining assets to the beneficiaries and heirs. The Personal Representative is also responsible for filing the final tax return (more in the tax section). If you are not working with an attorney you can take the original copy of the will and a certified death certificate to the Probate Court in the city where your loved one resided. They will open a file and verify that you are authorized to act on behalf of your passed loved one’s estate and issue the letters. These letters will allow you the access to the estate. It will also allow you to request a court order to open the safety deposit box (if no other owner is listed), cancel policies, contracts and subscriptions, access to bank accounts, assets, etc. In Arizona, wills need to be filed with the county in which the loved one lived only if you will need to collect on an asset, if there it is being contested or there is no designated beneficiary. (Double check with Laura) Estates typically will have to go through probate if your loved one owned property solely in his or her name, without a payable upon death designation or similar designation or a listed and viable beneficiary. However, every situation is different and dependent upon the laws in the state where your loved one resided and where he or she owned property and at the time of their death. What is Probate? Probate is how your loved ones estate is reviewed processed and dispensed. The process occurs whether there is a will or not. In its basic form it outlines what part of the estate is not already passed on to beneficiaries, assigns the remaining assets to pay for the debts owed and dispenses the rest of the assets to the beneficiaries named in the will or as ordered by the court. Items that are jointly owned and or have a listed beneficiary are not put through probate. Wellbeing/Health Related Paperwork Estate Planning Documents such as a will or last instructions should be located if at all possible to help guide you and the other family members and/or the Personal Representative to the wishes of your loved one on how they wanted their body laid to rest. These documents may outline medical treatment prior to death, life sustaining directions, organ donation, burial or cremation directives, title to plots or prearrangement information. It could also list location of information such as safety deposit boxes, other documents, family and other important people to notify of death. Life Insurance Documents – this includes medical, dental and other insurance policies. Once you have located all documents regarding life insurance and have reviewed other insurance documents to verify if there is any death coverage (check credit cards and mortgage as well). You will need to make contact with the insurance companies to file a claim and alert them that the insured has died. A list of some of the larger companies is located here with links to claim information and/or contact information. (attach page link) o Since there are several different types of insurance policies you will need to know what information the insurance companies need in order to begin to process your claim. Most companies will require the following: Certified copy of the Death certificate Details surrounding death if not listed on death certificate Copy of the most recent beneficiary designation and verification of beneficiaries. Typically the check is made out in the name of the beneficiary, however if the beneficiary is no longer alive the check will usually come in the name of the insured and will need to be deposited into the estate account (this should be set up at the bank soon after the death). Please verify with the insurance company on how the check will be issued. In some cases, an autopsy may be necessary before the dispensation of fund. A copy of the health card, the certificate of insurance and copies of medical records may also be requested. Keep in mind that it could take several weeks to receive the insurance payment. If your loved one had a sizable estate and you are the recipient, it is a good idea to speak with your financial planner to discuss your current financial situation, learn the tax implications and lay out your options for receiving the benefits so it works best for you and your family. If you do not have a financial planner a list of planners in the Scottsdale area is listed here: http://maps.google.com/maps?f=q&source=s_q&view=map&gl=us&q=Scottsdale,+AZ++CPAs&ie=UT F8&hl=en Medical, Dental, Disability and other insurance policies. If there are any claims that had not been filed prior to the death of your loved one, you or the Personal Representative will need to file the claims on behalf of the estate. This would include hospital bills, doctor bills, prescriptions, medical rentals, dental visits, etc. Health Care, Insurance and Prescription cards. The companies who provide the health and dental care, insurance and prescription benefits will need to be notified of the death. Once you or the Personal Representative has communicated with, filled out the appropriate paperwork for claims and have resolution to all outstanding issues these cards should be destroyed. Do not destroy them until all outstanding items have been resolved and payments made. Medical Records. Depending upon the circumstances surround the death of your loved one, it might be a good idea to ask their health care professionals for a copy of their medical records. You will need to have the Letters of Testamentary to do so. Financial If your loved one had several different types of financial accounts, we would advise you to consult with a Certified Financial Planner who could help you disseminate the accounts, policies and plans and facilitate organizing them for your needs in the future. If you do not have a financial planner a list of planners in the Scottsdale area is listed here: http://maps.google.com/maps?f=q&source=s_q&view=map&gl=us&q=Scottsdale,+AZ++CPAs&ie=UT F8&hl=en Most policies, plans, options and bonds list a beneficiary or have instructions for them to be transferred to a trust. This includes work sponsored 401 K plans, stock option plans, pension plans and health care insurance plans. The beneficiary may have the option to keep the plans intact or to liquidate them. Final paychecks, vacation pay as well as other payments and moneys owned to your loved one may be made out in the name of your loved one and will need to be deposited into the estate bank account. Make sure to hold onto all financial documents and get a final W2 from the employer for tax purposes. Banking Information. Now that you have gathered all you can find about your loved ones banking information you should be able to find out if their bank accounts were: joint, personal, has a transfer on death beneficiary or is part of a trust. If the account is a joint account, is listed as part of a trust or has a designated beneficiary with a designation to transfer upon death, these accounts should automatically transferred when a death certificate and documentation is provided. If there is a will that indicates where the accounts are to be designated the Personal Representative listed in the will has the duty to carry out the wishes and transfer the account(s) as delineated. If there isn’t a will and the account does not have a transfer designation the account along with other personal property will be intestate and will be reviewed by the Probate Courts. You will need to visit the bank(s) with both the Death Certificate and/or the letter of Personal Representation for accounts and personal identification that are not joint or designated with a beneficiary to begin the process of transferring assets. It is recommended to set up an estate account if there will be payments that need to be made on behalf of the estate. Make sure to go through every account, loan, CD, annuity or safety deposit box that your loved one had with each bank with the bank personnel. If your loved one paid bills electronically with the bank, make sure to have the bank deactivate the account or/transfer the accessibility over to the joint owner or beneficiary. Bonds, Stock Certificates, Mutual Funds and Securities. On the original documentation for these items there should be a company Financial Representative listed for whom your loved one worked with. You will need to contact the representative and take a Death Certificate and/or the Letter of Personal Representation with you to begin the process of transferring or liquidating these accounts. Again, it is a good idea to know what financial position you currently are in prior to deciding the future of these accounts, as tax implications may apply. Bankruptcy filing and releases. If your loved one was in the process of a bankruptcy proceeding or filing for bankruptcy, the case may try continuing as if the death did not occur. However it will depend on the type of filing and the specific details regarding such. Check with the lawyer handling the proceeding to verify how it play out. Otherwise for the specific rules that govern Bankruptcy Proceedings are available here: http://www.law.cornell.edu/rules/frbp/rules.htm Final income tax filing. You as the Personal Representative or relative will have to file a final tax return on behalf of your loved one and possibly on behalf of the estate. Beneficiaries of the estate may need to include benefits/dollars received from the estate on their taxes as well. You have until April 15th of the year following the death to file. If you are working with an attorney, certified financial planner or tax accountant make sure to seek their advice. The attached articles will help give you an understanding of some of the specific details for filing taxes on behalf of your loved one and the estate. http://turbotax.intuit.com/tax-tools/tax-tips/family/7105.html http://www.smartmoney.com/personal-finance/taxes/closing-down-the-estate-13279/ For more information on gift tax http://www.irs.gov/businesses/small/article/0,,id=108139,00.html If you are not currently working an attorney, certified financial planner of tax accountant a list of each in the local are available here: Family Law Attorneys in Scottsdale: http://maps.google.com/maps?rlz=1T4ADBR_enUS323US323&um=1&ie=UTF- 8&q=Attorney&fb=1&gl=us&hq=Attorney&hnear=Scottsdale,+AZ&view=text&ei=ERffS-3fIYX- sgO3p9ixBg&sa=X&oi=local_group&ct=more-results&resnum=4&ved=0CEwQtQMwAw Certified Financial Planners in Scottsdale: http://maps.google.com/maps?hl=en&rlz=1T4ADBR_enUS323US323&prmd=m&um=1&ie=UTF- 8&q=certified+financial+planner&fb=1&gl=us&hq=certified+financial+planner&hnear=Scottsdale,+AZ&v iew=text&ei=rhbfS9vtM4KOtAOHnpWyBg&sa=X&oi=local_group&ct=more- results&resnum=4&ved=0CE0QtQMwAw Tax Accountant in Scottsdale: http://maps.google.com/maps?rlz=1T4ADBR_enUS323US323&um=1&ie=UTF- 8&q=tax+accountant&fb=1&gl=us&hq=tax+accountant&hnear=Scottsdale,+AZ&view=text&ei=YCTfS42l BoqyswOQ8uSHBw&sa=X&oi=local_group&ct=more-results&resnum=4&ved=0CD8QtQMwAw Notes Receivable and Payable These items may not be clearly defined. HELP Retirement Accounts such as Keogh, SEP, IRA, 401-K’s. Surviving Spouse http://wills.about.com/od/howtoavoidprobate/a/deathandretire.htm Not surviving Spouse http://wills.about.com/od/howtoavoidprobate/a/deathandretire_2.htm Credit Bureaus and Credit Card Accounts. It is important to notify the credit bureaus of your loved ones death so they can place a death notice in their files. You will also need to send them each a certified copy of their death certificate along with their social security number and a letter explaining why you are notifying them. The Social Security Administration will also contact each of the reporting services once you have contacted the SSA, however it could take up to a few months. Click here for the contact information for the three credit reporting agencies: Link Once you have gathered all of the credit cards in your loved one’s name you will need to alert the companies as to their passing. If the card is held only in their name the card should be cancelled. If the card was issued as a joint card or has a signer listed additional steps may be needed (see below). You will need to call the customer service number on the back of the card or use the links below to communicate with their customer service departments. A certified copy of the death certificate will be needed to send to each company. Make sure to ask for a current balance, the required paperwork that you will have to execute, and to alert them as to if the estate will be paying off the debt. You should also ask for a confirmation letter once the card has been paid off and closed. Keep that letter in your files. If the credit card account is a jointly held account and the spouse would like to retain the card, notify the credit card company to cancel your loved ones card number and access information…….(get more info). In most cases, with jointly held credit card accounts the spouse or other party is responsible to pay for the deceased debt. If the card has a signer only attached, but is not on the application the signer may not be responsible for the debt however it will depend on the state you live in. In community property states, such as Arizona there are other legal issues that come into play and it is best to seek guidance from either an attorney or financial planner to help in this matter. To find contact information on the major credit card service providers click here (link) For more information the following is a good article on Credit Cards and debt after death. http://www.creditcards.com/credit-card-news/credit-card-debt-death-1282.php Real Estate – With real estate you will first need to find out how the property was held before you can move forward. If the property was held jointly (or in the names of 2 or more people) then the survivors or co-owners of the property will automatically have the property transfer to them. If there is a named beneficiary on the deed then the property is transferred to the beneficiary when the owner dies. You will need to have a copy of the death certificate and fill out paperwork to transfer the deed and the mortgage if there is one. It is recommended to seek council to help for with these matters. For a list of area attorneys: http://www.azbar.org/LawyersHelpingYou/freelegal.cfm Make sure to contact the insurance company for the property to let them know there is a change in ownership and/or that the property will be going up for sale. If you cannot locate the homeowner’s insurance paperwork, the mortgage company will have record of who the insurance is currently with. If you cannot find the Deed or Title paperwork you can access public documents that are recorded with the state including deeds. Use the following links for property in Maricopa County. Maricopa County Recorder’s office https://recorder.maricopa.gov/recdocdata/ Maricopa County Public Records. http://publicrecords.onlinesearches.com/AZ_Maricopa.htm If the property is located in another county or state, search online for the county recorder’s office to see if their documentation is available online, otherwise you can access public records by visiting the office. If the property is solely held without transfer upon death designations or a beneficiary, it may need to be appraised and sold depending upon the will and what the needs are of the Estate and the beneficiaries. A list of comparable sales of homes in the area may suffice if not you can hire an appraiser. You can find out what homes have sold recently in the area and their prices on Zillow.com. http://www.zillow.com/ A list of board certified local appraisers can be found here: http://www.appraisal.state.az.us/directory/Default.aspx Should you need a realtor a list of Arizona State Certified Realtors can be found here. If the property is not in Scottsdale, change the city to help find realtors in the area. http://www.aaronline.com/ConsumerAssistance/FindARealtor/Default.aspx You will need to contact the homeowners association, if there is one to let them know of the death and of the new responsible party and/or that the house will be going up for sale. Request a statement of account to date. Also request any additional keys or access information that may be needed for the property, paperwork that shows responsibilities of the Association, date of when dues are paid and what the amount is. If there is any concern of security, you may need to request all new codes, keys, pass cards or openers and that the current ones be cancelled. If your loved one was renting or leasing the property they lived in. Find a copy of the rental/lease agreement and read the terms for termination. Contact the landlord as soon as possible. A copy of the Death Certificate may be needed. Your loved ones belonging will need to be moved out of the dwelling at the end of the month or make arrangements with the owner/landlord. You will need to contact the homeowner’s insurance company to let them know of the death and what is happening with the property. A death certificate will be needed to remove your loved one from the policy. If the property and policy are jointly owned, you will need to notify them of the death with the certificate and have their name removed from the policy. If it is solely owned, you will want to get the name changed to the “executors or responsible party’s” name to make sure continuous coverage exists during the transition. Automobiles and other vehicles. For each of your loved ones vehicles, boats, RV’s, etc. you will need to locate the title and/or loan paperwork in order to transfer title. It will depend upon the situation and if the items will need to go thru probate as to how long it may take and the steps that need to be taken to transfer title. If you are a co-owner or spouse you should be able to transfer title with the: Title Completed title application Death certificate and/or the personal representation papers. With most other situations the Personal Representative will most likely need to wait until the estate has been reviewed, gone thru probate, and paid all debts before turning over the vehicles to the survivors or designated individual in the will. If you cannot locate the title, you can search the records for a copy of the title and registration however you will need the VIN number from the vehicle, the owners name and/or driver’s license number, zip code of where they lived and a credit card as it will cost $3.00 for the record. To locate a copy of the title and/or registration for a vehicle or a copy of your loved ones driving record you can access it online. https://servicearizona.com/webapp/citizenMVR/ To locate forms to help you with the title and registration transfers or for selling the vehicle you can access these forms at: Online forms for title and registration in Arizona http://mvd.azdot.gov/mvd/formsandpub/mvd.asp If the vehicle was leased the financial obligation will need to be settled during the probate process. Make sure you or the Personal Representative review the lease documents and contact the lease company to inform them of the death and get the instructions for next steps. A death certificate will be needed. Make sure to contact the insurance company to inform them of the death. Depending upon how the policy is paid (monthly, quarterly or yearly) will dictate if a reimbursement is due to the estate. If the car is not going to be driven until the time of transfer or it is sold, it would be advisable to maintain a liability only policy on a month to month basis. Computers and Passwords and the Digital World. As you start to dig around through your loved ones files, both online and in paper form you will realize how your loved one managed their life. Were they integrated into the digital world, not at all or somewhere in between? You will first think of finances, and how your loved one paid bills. Did they use an online bill paying service with their bank? Did they have electronic invoices from their utility companies? How much of their personal life was connected online as well with social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Shutterfly, Yelp? The list goes on. From a bill paying and financial perspective you should be able to find out from their banks as to if they paid their bills online. In either case you will need to have the bank close the account and move the money into an Estate account. However, make sure that they suspend all access to the online account as well. If it is a joint account you will not need to close the account but will need to talk with the bank about changing the status of the account and if you do not know the access information the bank will need to assist you in changing the log in access information. You will need to provide them with a copy of the death certificate and your identification. Social Media and Online sites. Need an opening … You will need to seek out what email addresses that your loved one used. Many people have more than one, usually a work related email address and a personal email address or two. If they were very active in the digital world there might be files set up listing usernames and passwords to accounts they have. Some people keep lists of account logins nearby the computer. There are even online sites that keep online data that will be passed on to their loved ones to use after they have died, Legacy Locker http://www.legacylocker.com and Asset Lock http://assetlock.net are a couple of such sites. If there was an email addresses at work, please talk with their employer to see if emails can be forwarded to another employee and personal emails forwarded to you. Often times personal conversations, bills and activity takes place via a work email. For personal email addresses, you will need to contact the email provider. The email provider can cancel the account and most will after a lengthy period of inactivity. However you can contact the email providers and ask that they cancel the account as well. Most will need you to provide them with documentation such as a death certificate, letter of representation and a request to cancel. Some will ask for an email sent by the person as well. For a list of popular email providers and how to contact they click here…link If you are not familiar with the level of online and digital media that your loved one used, start by asking some of their friends, co-workers and family members. Often time they are the first to be connected on social networking sites. With the Social Networking sites the data that your loved one placed online, such as pictures, may not be something you can get back. These sites in most cases own the data that is online. They will close a site upon request and even set it up as a memorial where friends and loved ones can continue to share about the individual who has died. A list of the most common Social Networking sites and how to contact them can be found here…. link Bills After someone dies the bills don’t stop coming, at least not until the companies are notified and decisions are made. Because every situation is different and depending upon the will, marital status, where your loved one resided will depend on what next steps are taken. As mentioned previously an attorney’s advice is always helpful. Once you are able; legally and emotionally start by using the list provided in Locating the Necessary Paperwork and the corresponding checklist connecting with the companies to either change the name or cancel the service. When cancelling such services make sure to ask for the re-imbursement of any remaining balance as of the cancellation date. A death certificate may be needed for many of these service companies if cancellation of service is desired. Consult the Death Certificate calculator for which type of companies may need this documentation and how many you will need to order. A list of many of the local utility companies with contact information and links can be found here…link Memberships Memberships such as health clubs, gyms, and golf and tennis clubs will need to be cancelled. Many will need proof of death and will require a death certificate in order to cancel the membership. Consult the Death Certificate calculator for which type of companies may need this documentation and how many you will need to order. Use the Locating the Necessary Paperwork and the corresponding checklist to help keep track of your progress and to help you think of different types of memberships.
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