In the fifth video of the Coronavirus Preparedness Series, Wes Coulson discusses what needs to be done (and should be done) after a loved one dies.
Today I want to talk about something that’s not particularly pleasant, but I know it’s unfortunately impacting some people right now. And that is, I want to talk about some do’s or dont’s: first steps that you should take if you have a loved one die, which by the way could be of anything, not just COVID-19, and you are the one who either by being named or by default are sort of in charge of getting things taken care of.
Let’s start with some things to do. If it is anybody who is receiving any sort of government benefits, most particularly social security or VA benefits, or anything else, you need to notify the social security administration, the VA, or whoever it is. If the person is employed, you need to make sure that you’ve notified their employer.
You need to look for and to file their will, or get it to a lawyer to get it filed. It’s actually a crime to be in possession of somebody’s will after they die and not file it with the court.
You do want to find out what bills they have: funeral bills, medical bills, utility bills, you name it. You want to round those up to find out what’s going to need to be paid. But a big don’t here, you don’t want to start paying anything. If it turns out that there’s not enough money to go around, the probate law has an order of priority for creditors to get paid, and if you’re the one in charge and you pay somebody that’s a lower priority, paying those creditors that are higher priority may wind up coming out of your own pocket. You definitely don’t want that to happen.
On the other side, you do want to round up the assets. Find out what’s going to be there to distribute, identify accounts, look for things, look certainly for any life insurance policies. But at the same time, you don’t want to start distributing assets out to beneficiaries yet. If you get a little heat, you need to take the heat on that, but creditor claims have to be paid before anything goes out to beneficiaries. Again, same consequence: if you do that and there’s not enough money to pay creditors, you could have that money coming out of your own pocket.
Perhaps the biggest do on this list is: call us, or call some lawyer that handles probate and get some help with the process. As I tell people, this is one these situations where getting 90% of it right still isn’t a good solution, because the 10% that you get wrong could really jump up to bite you.
For your sake, I hope and pray that this never comes up, but it is something that you should think about in advance, because when it happens you’ll need to be moving quickly on things.
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Coulson Elder Law is dedicated to providing families in the St. Louis area with their Elder Law needs. Our practice areas include Asset Preservation Planning, Veterans Benefits, Medicaid Eligibility, Alzheimer’s Planning, Special Needs Planning, Estate Planning and more. We understand the financial challenges you may face as you and your loved ones grow older. At Coulson Elder Law, our clients’ well-being is our number one priority. For immediate help, call (618) 632-7000 (IL) or (314) 567-9292 (MO), or Contact Us and we will get in touch as soon as possible.