1 Steps to Take After Your Loss Survivor s Resource The Baptist Foundation of Oklahoma Estate Planning & Gift Services
3 The Baptist Foundation of Oklahoma Survivor s Resource Steps to Take After Your Loss Written by: BRENDA B. McCOLLUM, J.D. Director, Office of Strategic Endowed Giving Florida Baptist Convention and SUZIE PAUL Administrative Assistant, Donor Servies The Baptist Foundation of Oklahoma Chele Marker Graphic Designer Adapted with permission for use in Oklahoma by: DAN ALLEN, J.D. Senior Vice President, Donor Services The Baptist Foundation of Oklahoma
4 Introduction Sometimes death comes as a surprise. Other times a loved one s death is expected. In either situation the surviving spouse experiences a weight of grief sometimes compounded by the confusion and responsibility of trying to make sense of the steps necessary to go on. Grief counselors tell us that we all experience loss differently. Some people experience an immediate, deep grieving period over the death; for others grief comes in waves over the weeks, months, and years that follow. Regardless, the days that follow the death of your loved one can be difficult and should be spent taking care of yourself. The Foundation has provided you with a Survivor s Resource which gives you a set of suggested steps to follow as you begin to sort through paperwork, make appointments with your attorney, tax preparer, and estate planning professionals the necessary things you must do in settling a loved one s estate. We hope that this tool will help make the important tasks you must attend to in the days to come less difficult. dan ALLEN, J.D. Senior Vice President, Donor Services The Baptist Foundation of Oklahoma The suggested procedures and information in this booklet are provided by The Baptist Foundation of Oklahoma as a general information source for preliminary actions only. Because certain benefits, such as Social Security benefits, veteran benefits, etc., are subject to change, the information provided herein is not to be construed as the final authoritative basis for definitive acts regarding estate matters. The Foundation hereby disclaims responsibility or liability for any loss, costs or expense which may be incurred as the result of using the information contained herein. Specific actions should be taken only after securing independent professional advice.
5 Contents Where To Begin Week One 2 Locate Important Documents The Steps Ahead Week Two 3 Locate Your Loved One s Will Ë Contact Insurance Agent Make a List of Bills and Expenses Week Three 4 Contact Social Security Ë Review Retirement Accounts Notifying Others of Loved One s Death Week Four 6 Develop Financial Plan Ë Budgeting Income Month Two 8 Continue to Follow Up Ë Contact Credit Card Company Income Tax Returns Ë Auto Insurance Medical/Dental Insurance Month Three 10 Review/Update Will, Living Trust, Power of Attorney Check Beneficiary Designations Fourth-Sixth Months 11 Financial Direction Assets/Liabilities Ë Estate Planning Leaving a Gift Ë Checklist Ë Contact Numbers
6 Where to Begin 2 Week One Locate Important Documents Various records and documents will be needed to settle the estate of your loved one. Places to search include a safe deposit box, home and office desks, safes, or other places where you have kept important papers in the past. Ask your family attorney or accountant for copies of documents you may need. This search can be emotionally difficult. It may be helpful to have a trusted friend help or simply keep you company as you search. Because many of these documents will be required when filing for benefits, you will want to make copies of each important document. Important Documents to Locate Last Will and Testament Revocable Trust Agreement Personal income tax returns for the previous five years Insurance policies Financial statements Records of outstanding loans Real estate documents, including deeds, leases, rental agreements, and most recent mortgage statement Auto registration papers All personal identification Records of employee benefits Spouse s credit report (Contact List on page 15) Order original Certificate of Death for: (Contact List on page 15) Each life insurance policy Retirement account Social Security Administration Investment or bank accounts Department of Motor Vehicles for transfer of ownership Courthouse in county where property is owned jointly Your broker, CPA, attorney, your family and personal use Log all important phone calls.
7 The Steps Ahead Week Two Call your insurance agent(s) as soon as practical. As part of the agent s service, he or she will usually review all of the policies on your spouse s life and advise you of the coverage and provisions of each policy. The agent may also assist you in filing claims for death benefits, and provide information about options you may have for receiving the proceeds from the policies. Insurance policies are valuable documents. Always request a receipt if you turn the policy over to your agent or local agency. When mailing original document, keep a record of the policy number and send the policy by registered mail with return receipt requested. Probate It is common for married couples to own all their assets in joint tenancy. In such instances, there may be no need for the will to be submitted for probate. However, if your spouse owned property in his or her name only, probate may be necessary to transfer title to the property. Your attorney will advise you in this matter. You may also need an attorney to clear title to jointly owned property, transferring stocks, bonds, savings and investment accounts. Although joint tenancy property is not subject to probate, the title will need to be cleared so that you may sell the property without delay if you desire to do so. Other Details for Week Two Contact Insurance Agent/fill out and return insurance forms Contact Estate Planning Attorney Write thank you notes to the people who showed acts of kindness Search cancelled checks Make a list of bills and funeral expenses Avoid creating joint ownership with others 3 Notes
8 The Steps Ahead Week Three Contact the Social Security Administration It is important that you notify the local Social Security office about your spouse s death as soon as possible to make sure the family receives all of the benefits that may be available. You can report the death to a service representative. Whenever you call, have your spouse s Social Security number nearby. You may want to call the office first and make an appointment with a representative for a time when you can discuss in person the specifics of your case. This will give the representative adequate time to review your spouse s file and be prepared to give you complete information about benefits to which you may be entitled. If your spouse was receiving benefits, you will want to have any recent statement of those benefits, an original Certificate of Death, as well as your Social Security number available. In applying for Social Security benefits you should be prepared to present: Certified copy of death certificate W-2 forms and/or copies of income tax returns for the last year Original birth certificate for you and any dependent children U.S. military discharge papers 4 Also, if your spouse was a veteran, contact the Veteran s Administration regarding benefits you may be entitled to receive. (see Contact List on page 15 for Social Security Administration and Veteran s Administration numbers). Retirement Accounts Review your spouse s retirement plans. A financial or legal advisor may need to guide you through decisions about IRAs, 401(k), or 403(b) accounts. Automatic Deposits If your spouse had a pension, social security, or other retirement income automatically deposited into a joint bank account, do not remove your spouse s name from that account until you know for sure the checks are being issued only in your name. Another
9 reason to delay removing your spouse s name from your checking account is that any income tax refund for the current year s taxes will most likely be issued in both names. If you remove the name too soon, you may lose ability to easily process refund or government checks, as they cannot be deposited to an account without the payee s name on account. Notify the following of your loved one s death: (Find contact numbers on page 15). The Social Security Administration Check with the Veteran s Administration regarding benefits Civil Service Unions and professional associations Decide how you will treat your spouse s IRA account(s). Open IRA account if needed. Check with your 401(k) and 403(b) plan administrator about the possibility of rolling your spouse s account into yours. Keep your spouse s name on checking accounts until automatic deposits have been changed. Notes 5
10 The Steps Ahead Week Four Develop a Long-Range Financial Plan The death of a spouse not only brings emotional distress to the surviving spouse, but may also cause financial hardship. There may be loss of income. Your spouse may have always written the checks, paid the bills and balanced the checkbook. Now you have the responsibilities, perhaps without any prior knowledge or experience. If you had a household budget before your spouse s death, it will need to be reviewed and updated to reflect any changes brought about by his or her death (change in income or changes in expenses). If there was not a budget before, you should consider creating one. Here are some guidelines for creating a budget. List all your income for the month. List all your anticipated expenses for the month. Subtract expenses from income. Any budgeted funds which are not spent during the month may be carried over to the next month in a reserve fund for future anticipated expenses. 6 Other Details for Week Four Evaluate paperwork that needs to be completed and make phone calls to insurance companies, your attorney, and spouse s employer. Pay bills and develop long-range financial plan. If you did not normally pay bills, keep a list of the monthly bills to help you manage and monitor your budget. Notes
11 BUDGET Monthly Income..._ less: Tithes income Taxes Social Security or Other Withholding Total Net Spendable Income..._ Net Spendable Income (from above)..._ less: Mortgage (principal & interest) Taxes on Home (1/12) insurance on Home (1/12) Car Payment/Replacement Account auto Insurance 1/12 Gas Food/Toiletries Clothing medical/dental Prescriptions electric Bill Telephone/Cell Phone Cable/Internet entertainment/vacation dry Cleaning Gift Other Insurance (long-term care) Other Debts (credit cards/short-term loans) TOTAL..._ 7
12 The Steps Ahead Month Two Continue to follow up with insurance companies, retirement plans, as well as your spouse s employer benefits office. If medical bills are beginning to come in, make sure all claims have been filed with Medicare, if applicable, and other supplemental insurance companies. Compare statements from the insurance company with the provider s bill sent from the hospital or doctor s office. Don t hesitate to call your insurance company to report inaccuracies. If there are credit cards in your spouse s name, contact the credit card company to request that the account be closed. You may want to open an account in your name. Also, contact all utility service companies to close accounts in your spouse s name or remove his or her name from joint accounts. Prepare Oklahoma Estate Tax return and Federal Estate Tax return if necessary. (See page 15 for Oklahoma and Federal Tax information contact information). Follow up with insurance companies and retirement plans. Keep a file of medical bills and work with insurance company to ensure they are paid. Check with the funeral home to see if interment marker is in place and correct. 8 Other details in settling spouse s estate: Transfer car title into your name. First class mail addressed to your spouse may be returned to the sender by writing deceased on the front of the envelope. Contact service utility companies to have accounts placed in your name. Call credit card companies to close accounts in your spouse s name or remove his or her name from joint accounts. If medical and dental insurance benefits were offered to you through your spouse s employer, contact the benefits office and ask what options are available to you.
13 Problems with Creating Joint Tenancy Seek legal advice from your attorney before you create joint tenancy with someone, even your children. When you put another s name on deeds, titles or certificates of ownership, you may create such unforeseen problems and expenses as: Loss of control of asset Gift tax Unintended disinheritance of other children or family members If person with whom you ve created joint tenancy files bankruptcy or files for divorce, creditors can have access to assets in joint tenancy. Notes Revocable Trusts Make a list of all property owned by the trust. Continue to maintain this list until your death or incapacity, so your successor trustee can then manage your affairs. 9 Make a list of all property that is not owned by the trust. This property should be titled in the name of the trust. Please note that any property not owned by the trust and owned only in the deceased spouse s name may need to be probated according to the deceased s Last Will and Testament. Obtain copies of the Memorandum of Trust (if one has been made) which gives essential information about the trust. This document can be given to persons who ask for documentation about the trust. You may also have an attorney prepare an Affidavit of Successor Trustee to verify your authority to act.
14 The Steps Ahead Month Three Estate Plan Make an appointment with an Estate Planning Attorney to review and update your Will, Living Trust, Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care, and Asset Durable Power of Attorney. To review and/or update the information in your will, contact your attorney for his/her advice and assistance. You may also contact the Foundation for assistance. A Foundation representative is available to meet with you, to provide you with a worksheet to help organize information needed to establish your estate plan, and to give you a list of attorneys in your area who handle estate planning matters. The Foundation also has a reimbursement policy when the estate plan contains a qualifying charitable gift to a Southern Baptist ministry. If you have an estate plan, you can review if you would like to make changes to distributions, personal representative, guardian, trustee, beneficiaries, and inclusion of gifts to charitable organizations that are important to you. Also, check the beneficiary designations on all of your insurance policies, bank accounts, retirement plans, and investment accounts to make sure they are titled correctly and will pass according to your estate plan. Contact Estate Planning Attorney to update or create estate plan. Make a list of questions for attorney before your meeting. 10 Check beneficiary designations on all of your insurance policies, bank accounts, retirement plans, and investment accounts. Revise budget as needed. Review your assets. (See page 12 for asset worksheet). Notes for Meeting with Attorney
15 Fourth-Sixth Month At this point you may want to make an appointment with a financial planner or advisor to help you decide where to place proceeds from life insurance policies and the funds in your IRA. When looking for a financial planner, ask your friends, attorney, or CPA for recommendations. Meet with financial planner. Update your personal records. (Visit the Foundation s website at and select Gift and Estate Planning to print our Personal Record Book worksheet). Notes 11
16 Financial Direction The following worksheet, a financial statement, is to help you take a clear look at your current financial position. Complete the next two pages before you meet with your advisor or have him/her walk you through it. ASSETS 12 Cash on Hand Check Account Balance savings Account Balance savings Bonds Investments (stocks, bonds, mutual funds) Cash Value of Life Insurance Policies Cash Value of Annuities iras 401(k) or 403(b) Real Estate (Home) Fair Market Value Real Estate (Rental or Vacation) Fair Market Value automobiles (Market Value) home Furnishings Jewelry Collectibles money Owed to You other Assets TOTAL ASSETS $
17 LIABILITIES home Mortgage Rental/Vacation Home Mortgage Home Improvement Loan/Second Mortgage automobile Loan short-term Debt (furniture/appliances) Personal Loans at Bank or Credit Union medical Bills Charge Cards other Debts TOTAL LIABILITIES To find your Net Worth, subtract your Total Liabilities from your Total Assets Leaving a Gift If you have not already done so, you may want to consider leaving a portion of your estate to support a Baptist ministry that is important to you and your family. You can do this through the Foundation in a number of ways, including several that can provide income to you and a more beneficial inheritance to your heirs. Below are a few gift options that benefit you and Southern Baptist ministries. For more detailed information, call us at or visit our website at Bequests Charitable Gift Annuities Charitable Remainder Trusts Memorials and endowments Donor Advised Funds Charitable Lead Trusts 13 Notes
18 Checklist 14 Order original Certificate of Death. Locate important documents. Log all important phone calls. Write thank you notes. Search cancelled checks. Contact Insurance agent(s)/fill out and return insurance forms. Contact Estate Planning Attorney. Make a list of bills and funeral expenses. Contact the Social Security Administration Check with Veteran s Administration regarding benefits. Contact Civil Service, if applicable. Contact professional associations and unions. Open IRA account if needed. Check with your 401(k) and 403(b) plan administrator about the possibility of rolling your spouse s account into yours. Keep your spouse s name on checking accounts until automatic deposits have been changed. Evaluate paperwork that needs to be completed and make phone calls to insurance companies, your attorney, and spouse s employer. Pay bills and develop a long-range financial plan. If you did not normally pay bills, keep a list of monthly bills to help you manage and monitor your budget. Have you determined that there will be assets subject to probate? Maintain consistent contact with your attorney to follow through with these matters. Prepare Oklahoma Estate Tax return and Federal Estate Tax return, if necessary. Follow up with insurance companies and retirement plans. Keep a file of medical bills and work with insurance company to ensure they are paid. Check with funeral home to see if interment marker is in place and correct. Meet with financial advisor. Update your personal records. (Visit the Foundation s website at and select Gift and Estate Planning to print a copy of our Personal Record Book worksheet).
19 Contact Numbers Certificates of Death Vital Records Service oklahoma State Department of Health 1000 NE Tenth oklahoma City, OK Tulsa Health Department Central Regional Health Center 315 S. Utica Tulsa, OK Credit Reports Equifax experian Trans Union Oklahoma Tax Commission OKC Metro Area Main Office Connors Building, Capitol Complex 2501 N. Lincoln Boulevard oklahoma City, OK or Tulsa Metro Area 440 South Houston, Fifth Floor Tulsa, OK Federal Tax Social Security Administration (hearing impaired) Veteran s Administration Civil Service Muskogee Regional Office 125 South Main Street muskogee, OK Office of Personnel Management Retirement
20 The Baptist Foundation of Oklahoma Strength for Today and Tomorrow 3800 N. May Ave. Oklahoma City, OK Ë Ë