Things to Think About

First of all, I recommend getting through the burial arrangements; emotions are running raw and wild.   When the appropriate time arrives, only you can determine that, slowly discuss the estate. In our case we closed up the house and let everything set idle for a few weeks.  When it was time, we discuss my mom’s wishes, and how we should go about handling her estate.  To my amazement, my mom wanted to turn everything over to us, since my wife and I are very experienced in buying and selling properties. Talk with your mother/father and family members about what they want you to take of; they may want to have a little involvement or want you to do everything.

The first thing I did was to get a Power of Attorney so I could conduct business on my mom’s behalf. (A Major Trust Factor). Everyone’s circumstance will be different, just choose the best one for you.  Please check with your legal and financial advisor for the best choice for you and your family.  Since my dad had their paperwork in order, I began getting my mom’s estate together. Just after my dad’s funeral, I began getting a handle on my mom’s affairs.  One of the best investments I ever made, a document scanner. This kept all of my documents organized and at my fingertips. This is really important; I made sure I kept my mom well informed of what I was doing.  I immediately notify Defense Finance and Accounting Service (DFAS) of my dad’s death. Their web site is a great source of information. (Don’t wait too long to notify DFAS you may have to repay any money owed.) There is a new form DFAS 9221 that is available. This form makes it easy for grieving family members to report the deaths of military retirees. The new form can be completed in minutes instead of waiting on hold for a customer service representative. I was able to give DFAS all the appropriate information since I was the son. In some cases they may want to talk with the widower or widow. They will ask for the deceased full name, social security number, date of birth, date of death and a copy of the death certificate. I verbally gave this information to them, and sent the death certificate via FAX. Report a Retiree’s Death. If you enrolled in Survivor’s Benefit Program (SBP), which my parents did, notify them as well. I gave SBP the same information that DFAS requested. If you are planning to move update your personal information via DEERS, Social Security, DFAS, myPay, Survivors Benefits. You can request logon codes and passwords from most of these agencies and conduct most business online.  This is the fast and easiest way to keep all agencies informed. When contacting these agencies, they will ask, and rightly so, to verify your identity, and will probably want to talk with the widow or widower to verify the appropriate information. Also, if you are receiving money from the veteran’s administration for a disability contact them as well. Veterans Affairs.  Again, take care of this quickly; you may have to repay any money owed.  Prior to settling the estate, and waiting for things to cool down a little, get a handle on the personal accounts such as banking, utilities, electric, mortgage, annuity, CD etc.  I contacted the above agencies and had my mother verify her identity and ask if I could talk on her behalf, most customer service representatives complied.   I was able to setup online account and pay her bill via internet. Get any paperwork together, bank statements, bills, will, living will, burial information, DD 214, Veterans Archives (lost documents), any military information, and tax information.  To my surprise my mother’s name was only on the banking account and annuity.  All other bills were in my father’s name. It’s would have been a lot easier to settle their accounts if both names were on the accounts, especially the car title.  When settling the various accounts you may receive a refund.  If so, make sure you let them know who to make the check out to.  These agencies may request a copy of the death certificate to change the name and issue a check.  If needed, notify a real estate agency to place the house on the market. (a great source of information – neighbors and relatives in the area)