AFTER A LOVED ONE PASSES

A guide to help you through the process of settling your loved-one’s affairs.

Think First

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Probating a will and handling their personal or business needs afterwards can be very complex. social security. Friends and co-workers might also be a good source to find a lawyer. Legal Assistance When processing the estate after someone has passed away. For a confidential. If you do not know of a lawyer. life insurance policies.5625. safe deposit box. securities.856. real estate documents. to make an appointment at 281. Financial Assistance Obtaining sound financial advice is an important step in handling the affairs of your loved one. Other important documents to be on the lookout for are wills. trust documents. Make copies beforehand in case you need to reference them. Other Legal Documents It is time to gather other documents you might need such as the title to the car or home. It is important that you bring with you all the documentation so they can help guide you in the process. This will make it easier to transfer assets formerly held by the decedent to their beneficiaries or family members. The lawyer will advise you on what records will be needed and how to proceed. 1 . Generally these are kept in a safe location such as a home safe. First Community Credit Union would like to provide this guide to assist you in settling your loved-one’s affairs. The funeral home will help you order them or you may obtain copies at the Vital Statistics office for a small fee. In many cases businesses will reject a photocopy and request an original certified copy. contact the local bar association or a law school to obtain a referral. insurance companies. Do not discard any papers while you are looking through documentation because they could be important even if you think they are old or expired. military records. business agreements. marriage certificates and birth certificates. First Community Credit Union offers an in-house investment advisor to give you such assistance. the First Investment and Retirement Planning Center. desk or at a storage facility. no cost review of the assets involved. veteran’s benefits. etc. It is wise to have a trusted witness with you as you search through the belongings and sort through the paperwork. It is in no way offered as a substitute for proper legal advice which should always be sought from qualified legal counsel before proceeding with disposition of any property of a decedent’s estate. social security cards. Seek out reputable professionals to assist you in making any financial decisions. investment papers. bank records. identification cards.During this difficult time. Death Certificate You will need to obtain several copies of the death certificate for various businesses that will require them such as financial institutions. file cabinet. tax returns or W2 forms. titling offices. and so on. The following is intended only as an outline to help you generally understand the probate process. you may contact our CUNA Brokerage Service. it is always a good idea to obtain the help of a lawyer if your loved one had assets that need to be probated.

please inform me of whatever documents or steps will be required to proceed with a claim. I understand that his (her) loan may have been covered by a life insurance plan or a disability plan through your company. etc.To creditors To whom it may concern: This is to inform you that my (husband. 10 . Our thoughts are with you and your family during this difficult time. Death leaves a heartache no one can heal.). died on date. wife. Sincerely. If so. full name here. Name Address Phone Number Please accept our most heartfelt sympathies for your loss. Love leaves memories no one can steal.

etc.) may have had as well. Name Complete Address Phone Number To organization(s) the decedent belonged to To whom it may concern: This is to advise you that my (husband. full name here. I wish to exercise my rights as beneficiary to elect settlement options. etc. wife.Sample Letters To Life Insurance Companies To whom it may concern: This is to inform you that my (husband. Name Complete Address Phone Number 9 . Sincerely. Sincerely. Please send me a list of whatever documents you will require and whatever information you will need from me as his (her) beneficiary. His (her) policy number was . please also notify me of that. wife. I understand that he (she) may have been covered by a life insurance plan through your organization. Please search your files for any other coverage that my (husband. has passed away on date.). If reimbursement of dues is forthcoming. Please send me whatever documents you will require to make a claim on the proceeds of the policy. wife. has passed away on date.). full name here. etc.

If the heirs chose to have an independent administrator appointed. An intestate succession is much more time consuming and expensive than an independent administration under a will. 5. If the decedent died without a will. The names and addresses of all heirs. for the orderly distribution of estates. if there is a struggle over the issue. to serve. they will help you with this process. However. Decedent’s full name and the date of death (no documents are needed).Probate If you are named executor of an estate. This should be avoided whenever possible since the expense of this type of administration can be enormous. if the testator ( the decedent who made the will) did not waive the bond requirement in the will. you will need the date and place of the marriage. The probate courts have skilled and understanding personnel who are willing and able to assist you in completing necessary forms. If there was a previous marriage for the decedent. that all debts and taxes are paid. If you have hired an attorney. Letters Testamentary will be issued by the clerk. 3. next of kin and beneficiaries. an order will be entered appointing that person to act as the personal representative of the estate. if one exists. this is referred to as an intestate succession. any heir or creditor may file to be appointed. then one is not necessary as long as the proper procedures are followed in a timely manner. Prior to this. Generally you will arrive at probate court within a week to 10 days after the date of death. A will. one of the first things you should do is contact your local probate court. 2 . An attorney ad litem will be appointed to represent the missing and unknown heirs and will insure no heir is omitted. Probate is a procedure. If the decedent was your spouse. If the will provided that no bond is to be required of the executor. usually an attorney. established by law. Although dealing with probate matters at this time may be difficult. the court may appoint a third-party. Avoiding it by means of a validly executed will is always wise. A clerk will inform you about the procedures. it is important that these transactions be made as quickly and as accurately as possible. 2. and that the person entitled to the property receives it. If there was a will and it can be admitted to probate and if it named an executor or executrix who is willing and able to serve. A summary of the decedent’s assets. If the will provided for independent administration. 4. Attorneys advise having the following information available for probate: 1. However. A sufficient number of these should be ordered as they will be required for most of the executor’s transactions on behalf of the estate. The form of proceedings will vary on whether or not the decedent died with a valid will. The court will generally consider the surviving spouse or closest next of kin to be the logical choice. the administrator will take the oath of office and file the required bond. If the heirs disagree on the person to be appointed as administrator. you will need to provide the dates of marriage and the date of death or divorce terminating the former marriage(s). It is designed to assure that all the property of the decedent is collected and protected. there must be an heirship proceeding to determine who the heirs of the estate are. unless the court waives it. they must all agree on the person who is to serve. one will be required in an amount set by the court to cover the value of all liquid assets. After his appointment.

and local taxes can be paid at once because such bills take precedence over other claims. If you are in doubt about the validity of a claim. If you are not an independent representative. All claims in a dependent administration are presented to the probate judge and. the personal representative of the estate. letters can be sent to secured and unsecured creditors requiring them to present their claim to the representative within the time allowed by the probate code for that type of debt. the funeral. This form is available from the probate clerk’s office and. must file an inventory of the estate’s assets within ninety days of appointment. you must be sure that the estate is more than sufficient to pay all claims and all expenses of administration. if the claims are not acted upon within a statutory time period they are considered rejected and a lawsuit to recover them must be filed in a timely manner against the estate. if approved. (Claims are debts incurred before the person died). are paid in the proper order of administration. Ordinarily the expenses of the last illness. the foregoing procedures might be avoided by the filing and recording of a small estate affidavit. they are barred. Other types of heirship affidavits have very limited use and are used only to identify heirs where the decedent has been dead for over four years. no action is taken by the probate court and any creditors are free to make demand on and sue the independent representative just as they could the decedent. whether an executor or an administrator. 3 .After taking the oath of office. and authenticated. consult an attorney before acting. Thereafter. The claims process varies with whether the administration is independent or dependent. The independent representative is free to deal with these claims as the estate’s finances may warrant. you cannot pay any claims against the estate unless ordered to do so by the court. Also. If the claims are not duly presented in proper form. Small Estates If the decedent had no will. can be used as an alternative to standard probate proceedings. and has assets valued at less than $50. excluding the value of the residential homestead. if properly complied with and approved by the probate court. must within thirty days of his/her appointment publish a notice in the local newspapers notifying creditors that they have to present claims against the estate within the time allowed by law.000. If you are an independent representative. An independent personal representative. like a dependent one. In a dependent administration.

4357 or http://www. gratuity payments (tips). service recognition awards. phone number. Pay special attention to the decedent’s health benefits to determine if dependents are still covered and for how long. Banks and credit unions may freeze funds until they are notified by the joint account holder or Executor/Administrator as to what steps they need to take next. We have included some sample letters to assist you in contacting the various organizations.000.382. service organizations. but this limit is temporary and only applies for the next two years.shtm 8 . Rates and exemptions vary from state to state. Many such groups offer life insurance policies at attractive group rates and/or may return unused annual dues that have been paid. Inheritance taxes must also be reviewed. after which. Terminal pay allowances. 5. This is to help prevent fraudulent withdrawals from the various accounts. title.5300 or visit with your local Branch Manager for assistance with the financial affairs held at the Credit Union. Contact unions. It is available by calling toll-free 1. For deaths occurring in 2011-2013. 6. 7. and the instructions given.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/pubs/consumer/products/pro19. Contact a Branch Manager for further direction on any FCCU accounts. It is important to keep detailed records of conversations. Accrued vacation and sick pay may be available. Free Pamphlets The Federal Trade Commission provides Funerals: A Consumer Guide.000. We trust this information has been helpful in your time of need. or professional organizations to which the decedent belonged in order to find out whether he or she had any eligible benefits. disability income and credit union balances may be available. Please feel free to contact our Special Services department at 281. Document everything in a binder and keep all the records together for easy referencing. it will be subject to revision.2. 3. unpaid commissions.856.877. Send letters to all creditors and various organizations the decedent may have been dealing with notifying them of the death. The employer will help you determine if the decedent was covered by a life insurance policy and can proceed to guide you in filling out claim forms. automobile clubs. Taxes It is important to consult with a skilled tax advisor to help with State and Federal taxes. 4. Make note of the representatives’ names. the exemption from estate taxes has been set at $5.

call or visit your nearest DVA regional office.800.397. or other person who can act as a contact for TRS.gov.us or by calling TRS toll-free at 1.916. The period of entitlement for children is generally between the ages of 18 and 26. survivors may be eligible for a 10-point preference when they apply for a civil service position. The credit bureau will place an alert on the credit report so future advances will not be allowed on open credit lines. a benefit of $150 is available. TRS will require the name. You and your children may be eligible for financial aid under the Dependents Educational Assistance Act. Also. 7 . Call Equifax at 1.525. and telephone number of a family member.tx. At that time. it is generally for a period of 10 years from the date of death or date of eligibility. For further information and assistance in applying for Veteran benefits.1000 or www.000 when death was due to a service-related-cause. When important member records are not kept up to date. More Probate Matters It is important that all bills are gathered and businesses and employers are notified. For spouses. After receiving notification of the death. TRS will mail out benefit information and forms to the beneficiary. If the decedent is eligible for burial in a national cemetery but you opt for another cemetery.8778. The beneficiary should complete and file the claim form and related documents before the first anniversary of the death of the participant or retiree to avoid adverse tax consequences. 3. TRS will request a copy of the death certificate when it is available for verification purposes. the branch of the military involved usually awards a lump-sum amount.8800 and Experian at 1.6285 and choose option 5. friend.223. If the decedent died during active duty or within 120 days after discharge from a service connected cause. call Trans Union at 1. In addition.S. as well as the TRS participant’s date of death. Department of Veterans Affairs (DVA) will pay up to $300 in funeral benefits to qualified veterans or up to $2.trs.cem. When TRS receives all completed documents.800.state.800. address. changes for tax purposes and to disburse valuable death and survivor benefits. For more information. You may contact the Teachers Retirement System at the TRS web site at www. the claim will be processed and the death benefit will be paid. 2.827. Here is a list of items to consider: 1.888. Veteran Benefits The U.800. whichever comes first. If the participant’s death occurs while employed by a TRS-covered employer. contact DVA at 1.3742 and remain on the line for assistance. a longer time period may be needed to process a claim.va. 4. DVA will also provide an American flag for the casket and burial in any national cemetery other than the Arlington Cemetery in Virginia. then TRS must receive salary documentation from the employer before information is sent out in order to determine the actual benefit to be paid.

if the decedent had property from before the marriage which is segregated or had inherited property during the marriage. an Administrator will be appointed by the court. If the beneficiary is a minor or is not capable of the task. they are also the sole heir of the estate. a guardian should file the form. then the Executor 4 . Proof of death is generally the death certificate. an Executor (Executrix) will be required to present a current Letter Testamentary. In some cases an obituary notice or the attending physician’s statement can be used if they will accept them. Insurance Proceeds To establish proof of a life claim. While there is a presumption that all property on hand at the time of death for a married decedent is community property.gov. The claimant’s certificate must be completed by the person legally entitled to receive the proceeds and must state in what capacity he or she makes the claim. The rest goes to the children or their descendents. This happens to be true only if there are no children or all children are those of the surviving spouse and the decedent. the surviving spouse only receives his or her half of the community property and the decedent’s children share the rest. you will receive your EIN immediately and can then proceed to open the Estate Account. the spouse inherits one third of any personal property and has a life–estate in one-third of any real estate. This can be obtained at www. If there is a surviving spouse and no children.Who are the Heirs? In Texas. If there are children from before the last marriage. An Estate account is needed in order to facilitate the accumulation and division of the assets. which can be applied for online. These individuals are the only ones that can open an Estate account. the spouse receives all the personal property and one-half of the real estate and the remainder goes to the other heirs. If there is not a beneficiary. many people are under the mistaken belief that if they are the surviving spouse of the decedent. He or she must be prepared to provide positive ID if necessary. Insurance companies do reserve the right to ask for further information or proof if deemed necessary. He or she will present a Letter of Administration. most companies will need a statement of claim and proof of death. Any person who wishes to renounce an inheritance or any portion thereof must file a proper disclaimer with the probate court no later than nine months from the date of the decedent’s death for it to be effective. Upon completion of the form. Bank Accounts You will need to obtain a Tax ID number (EIN) in order to open a bank account for the Estate. Contact each insurance company and ask them for their requirements. If there is a surviving spouse and children or their descendents. this is separate property. This is also true for funds in various banking accounts where the bank or credit union will close the account and send the proceeds to the Executor or Administrator at their request. If there is no will then. Life insurance proceeds not paid out to a beneficiary will often be payable to the Estate of ____ (the decedent) and will therefore need to be deposited in the Estate account. and if all the property is community property. Before opening the account. search for form SS-4. It is important that accurate record keeping be done so that all funds can be accounted for.irs. Your lawyer will guide you in this process.

If there is no immediate need for a lump-sum payment. Who had possession of the policy? 5. In making a claim. 2. place. The great advantage of delaying immediate payment of the entire amount is that it gives you time to evaluate your changed financial situation and to talk it over with your financial advisors if you wish. date). The decedent’s date and place of birth and source of birth information. or homicide. address. 5. state whether such injuries and death were due to accident.or Administrator must complete the form and the funds will then be placed into the Estate account for disbursement. Do not feel like you need to make a rush decision. in various amounts. keep in mind that the life insurance benefit can be paid out in several ways. Full name and address of decedent. Claimant’s name. 4. a copy of the policy should be furnished with the claim papers. a death certificate for them will be needed by the insurance company. For this reason. In many cases you can take what you need now and delay the rest until such time as when you have been able to review all your options. When did the health of the decedent first begin to be affected? 2. 3. 3. 6. If a settlement agreement is involved. All life insurance claims should include the following: 1. If death resulted solely from bodily injuries. Date. this comes at a time when you may be least prepared or least able to make sound financial judgments. and Social Security number. suicide. the policy should be retained. 5 . usually the Social Security number. Name and address of each physician who attended to the decedent during the last five years prior to death. you will have to decide what to do with them. Is an Administrator or Executor to be appointed? 6. In the case of a deceased beneficiary. consider the various settlement options available. Insurance Settlement Options After you receive the proceeds of the policy. Federal legislation requires all taxpayers to furnish identifying numbers. amounts. Other information that might be required: 1. age. The decedent’s occupation and date last worked. These options define the ways in which money can be paid over various periods of time. List any other life insurance policies that the decedent may have had (company. Unfortunately. to persons and companies making taxable payment to them. or if an optional plan is elected. 4. Policy number(s) and face amount(s). and cause of death.

the amount could be lowered as each child finishes school. 1. Prompt notice allows TRS to make the necessary 6 . Your Social Security number. The name of your financial institution and your account number so your benefits can be directly deposited into your account. The beneficiary decides the amount of each payment and the period of time involved. friend. if available. Fixed Installments: Proceeds are paid according to the needs of the beneficiary in agreed amounts over an agreed period of time. 4. Provisions can be made for the right to unlimited withdrawals at any time. Your birth certificate.S. Proof of death (either from funeral home or death certificate). Your marriage certificate if you are the widow or widower. Your divorce papers if you are applying as a surviving divorced spouse. Bring the following: 1. the funeral director will contact the local Social Security office.1213. Teacher Retirement System Benefits Being familiar with how to request TRS death benefits can greatly ease matters at a difficult time. In almost every case. payments are highest when the need is greatest.800. Therefore. and the decedent’s number. 8. Life Income or Annuity: The Company guarantees to pay a stipulated benefit on a set date for the lifetime of the beneficiary. To reach the Social Security office by phone. 3. Social Security Benefits Among the many details you will have to handle. 3. there is a lump-sum death benefit of $255 that may be available for a spouse or for the benefit of minor children.The common settlement options fall into these general categories. When a TRS member or retiree dies. The member’s employer or funeral home may offer to assist in this process. 9. Proof of U. If the decedent was covered under Social Security. For example: A widow or widower with school age children might choose a plan that together with Social Security would maintain the family’s standard of living until the children finish school. Decedent’s most recent W-2 forms or federal self-employment tax return. Because this might be a long time. Delay in applying can result in the loss of some benefits. The following checklist should assist with this process: 1. call 1. TRS must be notified of the death even if a monthly annuity will continue to be paid to a beneficiary under a retiree’s optional form of annuity. Dependent children’s Social Security numbers and birth certificates. 6. a family member. Remember that benefits are not automatic which is why it is important to visit your local office as soon as you can. or other responsible party should notify TRS.772. 7. 2. citizenship or lawful alien status if you were born outside the United States. one of the most important is to notify the local Social Security office of the death. 2. 5. Interest Only: The principal remains with the insurance company and interest is paid periodically.

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