Losing a Loved One

Surviving the Loss of a Loved One

Losing a loved one is difficult enough without the added stress of financial, family and burial matters that survivors are left to handle.

According to a survey by Caring.com, more than half of Americans don’t have a will or living trust. That number is even lower for parents with children under the age of 18. Without a will to guide them, some survivors feel as though they are roaming around in the dark.

To offer a roadmap to make the journey less complicated, Redstone Federal Credit Union has created a Survivor’s Guide to help you through the estate settlement process. It also provides a checklist of documents you will need to get your affairs in order.

“We see the stress and anguish of surviving family members who are trying to find important documents so that they can bury a loved one, apply for benefits, or access bank accounts. It can be heartbreaking,’’ said Kevin Carroll, Senior Assistant Vice President for Investments and Insurance.

“This Survivors Guide can help you start the planning process now and lessen the stress on your loved ones when that time comes,’’ Carroll said.

Redstone has made every effort to provide complete information in this guide; however, the Credit Union cannot provide legal, tax, accounting or investment advice.

You, your spouse and family members should sit down together and complete this personal information. It may save your survivors many hours of searching for legal and financial documents at some difficult time in the future. There may be additional information not listed in the guide that would be applicable to you. If so, that should also be included in your personal record.

Leave a personal letter

A letter of instruction is an informal, non-legal document that helps surviving family members and friends with the planning process. It gives instructions on everything from funeral arrangements, to who gets the items in your safe deposit box or the family heirlooms. 

However, regarding personal property, give those things to family and friends now, if possible, so that you can see the joy your gift brings.  

You may wonder if you need both a will and a living will. The answer is ‘yes,’ and here’s why:

  • A will allows you to:
    • Choose the guardian for your minor children
    • Distribute assets and property in accordance with your wishes.
    • Designate an executor of your estate, such as a trusted relative, friend or corporate executor, saving the cost of a court-appointed attorney.
  • A living will states your wishes with respect to certain types of medical treatment, such as life support if you are terminally ill.

Check your beneficiaries

Children can get benefits if a working parent dies. Unmarried children can receive benefits up to age 18 or 19 if they are a full-time student. If they were disabled before the age of 22 and remain disabled, they can receive benefits at any time. Contact the Social Security Administration for benefit guidelines for stepchildren, grandchildren, step-grandchildren or adopted children who can receive benefits under certain circumstances. 

When is the last time you updated your beneficiary designations on your life insurance policies, bank accounts, brokerage firm or retirement accounts?

You should review your beneficiaries every three to five years. However, if you have gotten divorced, married, had children, or any other major life event, account-holders should update those accounts immediately.    

Lots of people unknowingly still have prior spouses or deceased relatives named as a beneficiary on a retirement account at a former employer, or on a life insurance policy purchased long ago.

Financial advisors say this is one of the most common and potentially costly retirement and estate planning errors that savers and investors make.

Don’t let a family crisis find you unprepared. A written estate plan that includes an advance healthcare directive, a will or trust will ensure that your final wishes are known and alleviate some of the challenges facing your loved ones.

Get your Survivors Guide from any Redstone branch or download it here.

For more information, speak with a Trusted Advisor

For a comprehensive review of your personal situation, always consult with a tax or legal advisor.

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