Steps To Protect Your Family

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OCEAN CITY — After your spouse or partner passes away, you’ll be dealing with grief, contacting family and friends and arranging for a funeral. It can be overwhelming. You’ll want to know ahead of time some of the key steps to take in the days and weeks immediately after a death in the family. This list will help you get started.

You’ll need life insurance policies, your own and your spouse’s 401(k) and IRA statements, bank account and credit card statements, brokerage account statements, mortgages and deeds, other loan documents, your spouse’s will, and your own will.

Review these with a knowledgeable family member or your professional advisors.
Update your own beneficiaries on your 401(k) and any IRAs, life insurance policies and annuities.

You may need several certified copies of the death certificate to make changes to some accounts. The county where the death occurs may charge for these. The funeral director may be able to request these for you.

Attorneys, financial advisors, insurance agents and accountants all need to know when your spouse or partner has died, so notify them right away. They can help you make the most of your assets and sources of income.

Notify your bank and brokerage firm right away. If you have your money in a bank account under joint tenancy with rights of survival, the surviving spouse or partner continues to have full access to the account. That’s why you may want to keep at least some of your money in a joint account. Change the account to your name only.

If you have separate accounts, you might have to wait for access to the money in your spouse’s account. Go to the bank together now to learn what you need to do in the event one of you dies.

For security, make sure the bank cancels your deceased spouse’s ATM cards.

Contact the Social Security Administration. You and any minor children you have may be eligible for a one-time death benefit or a variety of other benefits. A Social Security representative can review your choices with you and implement your decision.

The next step will be to prepare for your future. A knowledgeable family member or your professional advisors can help you total all your assets and income and determine your liabilities and living expenses and create a budget for your future and help you choose adjustments to your lifestyle.

(A Merrill Lynch Wealth Management Advisor. She can be reached at 410-213-8520.)

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