Providing invaluable personal care and support are some of the tasks that make your duty as a caregiver essential. However, unexpected events, like COVID-19, could result in the sudden death of your patient/parent, leaving some vital information and paperwork unfinished.

This misfortune can happen at any time. And caregivers find themselves in awkward moments trying to encourage family discussions few want to talk about.  We find Professional Caregivers looking for a tool to help their family caregivers organize their family’s estate, in order to lessen the stress associated with gathering the necessary information and paperwork following the patient/parent's death.

1. Do You Have A Will?

Death is an emotional matter; however, it's a fate that no one can escape; that's why one needs to put his house in order via a Will before time runs out.

A will is a legal document that contains information on how the patient/parent wishes to distribute his/her assets along with the care of any minor children. This action is essential because it reduces the likelihood of family strife and liberates the heir from the stress of sorting out the deceased's affairs.

Compiling a Will isn't only for the wealthy or those with a vast amount of assets; it is a document that serves multiple advantages to individuals from different financial backgrounds. Some of these benefits include:

  • Instructions on what to do with the deceased's assets and heirlooms such as second homes and jewelry.

  • Information to protect the children and pets of the deceased

  • Burial wishes

2. Have You Identified All Your Assets?

It's vital to the well-being of your patient/parent's household that he/she makes an inventory of all the valuables. These include stocks, bonds, businesses, real estate, jewelry, vehicles, art & antiques, etc.  This is a daunting effort for many, requiring an organized way to document them.

The list might go on and on (depending on their financial status), but it's essential to crafting a comprehensive Will and avoiding family quarrels after their death.

3.  Have The Executor(s) Co-signed On The Accounts?

An executor is appointed to implement the instructions of the deceased, as written in the Will. The maker of the Will (usually the deceased) or a court appoints the executor.

Without an executor co-signed before death, the assets (stocks, bonds, real estate, direct investments, collectibles, etc.) may take weeks or months to get approval from the court to access the accounts.

To avoid this, the patient/parent must summon the executor(s) to co-sign the necessary paperwork before running out of time. This could take weeks.

4. For Veterans: Have You Completed Your Certificate of Release

The Certificate of Release, also known as a "DD 214", is a document issued to former military members (Airforce, Army, Marine, Navy, etc.) by the United States Department of Defense.

Funeral directors generally demand the DD 214 to prove that the deceased is a member of the military, and is eligible for a grave marker and the honorary burial ceremony of a veteran. This funeral ceremony includes the folding and presentation of the national flag accompanied by the sounding of taps.

*Note: All these benefits come at no cost to the family; the government handles them.

5. Have Executor(s) met With The Estate Attorney?

As expressed in question three, the importance of an executor cannot be overemphasized. They ensure that all facets of the Will are followed and oversee the distribution of the deceased's assets.

However, these cannot be done without the Estate Attorney's input because they keep track of all legal matters concerning finance, ensure that the documents comply with the law, provide legal advice regarding asset transference, etc.

6. What's The Status Of Your Life insurance?

Like assets and retirement accounts, life insurance will be delivered to beneficiaries - most likely family members. Therefore, contacting all insurance firms to update the list of recipients before the time of death is almost as crucial as compiling a Will.

Additionally, life insurance is another way the patient/parent can subsidize the funeral cost or financially support his/her family if they have any outstanding debt or dependence. However, if they have none, you can skip this question.

7. Have You Made Copies Of All The Essential Documents?

Once all documents are complete, ensure your patient/parent reproduces them in three copies each, then date and sign them all.  BTW, do you know what are the essential documents?

The original copies should be given to the Estate administrator or attorney, the other to the spouse or most reliable kin, while the last should be kept in a safe deposit box.

Splitting the essential documents helps to ensure that the Will is executed perfectly without any unnecessary delay or misplacement of materials.

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