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Be Wise With Money

When a Loved One Dies: What to Do [Guide]

A helpful guide to the practical matters that must be faced with the death of a loved one

When someone you love passes away – expectedly or not – the grief and shock can be overwhelming. Rarely do you have time to process what has just taken place before crucial decisions need to be made.

"You have this emotional event going on – this loss of a loved one – and at the same time there are financial matters to deal with. It's a terrible mix," says Deborah L. Jacobs, an attorney and author of Estate Planning Smarts: A Practical, User-Friendly, Action-Oriented Guide.

"You have to dial down your emotions as best you can, and begin to prioritize what needs to be done," she says. "Ask yourself: 'What is most important now? What can wait until later?'"

You'll certainly rely on the help of family and friends during this difficult period. Your pastor and the funeral director are well-qualified individuals you may also lean on to guide you through this time. And when it comes to financial matters, your financial representative can help. Many financial representatives believe working with members – in good times and bad – is more than just a job. It's an opportunity to care for families as they seek to find peace and comfort during a difficult time. And when the time is right, they can provide a wealth of practical information.

6 steps to take in the first days after a loved one dies

Here is a list of practical steps to take, from spiritual to financial, during those initial days.

  1. Call one family member or trusted friend: You'll need to spread the word, but don't spend hours on the phone. That first call can begin the phone tree; ask others to place the rest of the calls for you. Be sure to notify employers, family members, close friends and your loved one's physician.
  2. Call your pastor: He or she will listen to you with compassion and care, and offer the healing, hopeful words of Scripture. Your pastor also can guide you in planning the service for your loved one.
  3. Contact the funeral home or crematorium: If your loved one has made arrangements, find the appropriate documents. If plans haven't been made, ask your pastor, family members or a friend for help.
  4. Make arrangements for the funeral or memorial service: The funeral director or your pastor can help you make arrangements, working within your budget. Honor your loved one's wishes wherever you can, but consider your own needs and feelings too.
  5. Order multiple copies of the death certificate: You could need a death certificate to place an obituary, as well as to send to insurance companies, banks, creditors and other businesses in the weeks to come. If you're not sure how to obtain a death certificate, you can order these from the funeral home or crematorium.
  6. Call your financial representative: He or she will begin to set the financial wheels in motion to file a claim for life insurance benefits or address matters related to other financial products. Your financial representative can also provide you with the Thrivent Financial booklet Step by Step: Your Guide to Making Practical Decisions When a Loved One Dies. Some members find it to be very therapeutic to read.

Above all, take care of yourself. Grieving is hard work that takes a toll not only on your emotions, but on your body too. Accept the care of family and friends.

Ask for help with the practical things that need to be done. And finally, give yourself permission to freely mourn the loss of your loved one. Read more about what to consider in the weeks ahead


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