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What To Do When You Lose a Loved One (Bonus Checklist)

What To Do When You Lose a Loved One (Bonus Checklist)

Losing a loved one, spouse, or parent can be traumatic. The initial communications with family, friends, and organizations necessary to plan the funeral can be emotionally devastating, time consuming, and financially problematic.

SVA has created a checklist to use as a navigational tool during the estate settlement process. A life lived requires many tasks to close it out and not all tasks are self-evident or straightforward. We can help you along the way as much or as little as you need.

  1. Start by downloading our Loss of a Loved One Checklist.
  2. Review the following tips to help guide you through the process:
    • To probate or not to probate: In Wisconsin, depending on the estate planning before death, probate may or may not be required. However, locating any final will and filing it with the local probate court is still required, whether probate proceedings will be necessary or not. If they are required, you will need to file a petition to open a case and have the personal representative appointed. Once this is done, the personal representative will be granted the right to collect and distribute assets.
    • The personal representative should take an inventory of all the assets and secure them. For example, if the decedent had multiple brokerage accounts, you may want to transfer them into a single account. The personal representative should also keep track of any personal property in the estate. Don't forget about any pets and their required care.
    • The next step is to pay off the debts of the deceased. Some or all of the decedent's assets may need to be liquidated if there aren't sufficient funds to satisfy all the outstanding obligations.
    • After the estate has paid all debts, the personal representative can determine which assets are to be liquidated and distributed to the heirs in the form of cash and which assets are to be distributed in-kind, directly to them.
    • It is also the personal representative's responsibility to ensure all required tax returns are filed and any tax payments associated with those returns are promptly remitted.
    • Throughout implementation of the above steps, the personal representative has a fiduciary duty to keep all the beneficiaries reasonably informed. Many states have laws that require this.
    • Finally, the personal representative must distribute the remaining estate assets according to the decedent's will or trust, or state law if there is no will or trust.

You may also need to seek legal counsel along the way. SVA is here to help and can assist you in developing an advisory team to handle the estate settlement process. We continually collaborate with the most qualified attorneys, trust companies, banks, insurance companies, and other advisors in the area.

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Biz Tip Topic Expert: Richard Kollauf - JD, CPA, CFP, AEP

Richard Kollauf - JD, CPA, CFP, AEP

Richard is a Principal for SVA Certified Public Accountants and has more than 35 years of experience working in financial, accounting, and legal operations. Richard’s expertise in the multi-faceted financial environment includes business succession planning, tax, investments, finance, mergers and acquisitions, estate planning, and trust administration. He also has experience in estate planning and distribution for complex operational and investment multi-state businesses. Richard provides income tax consulting services to closely-held and family-owned businesses, as well as high net worth individuals.

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