General Advice and Information
When a Death Occurs:
The family is usually in the midst of an emotional crisis. The funeral director may act as an advisor on many of the immediate problems; he has the knowledge and experience to relieve a family of needless worry and care
The Death Certificate:
The Funeral Director files Death Certificate with the county clerk and obtains the burial permit. Certified copies of the Death Certificate may be required as proof of death in settling claims. Additional copies may be obtained for a nominal charge.
IF THERE IS A WILL
The deceased is said to have died 'Testate' ... the executor must file the Will with the Probate Court within the time prescribed by statute and proceed with probate and distribution of the estate. The services of any attorney are advisable.
IF THERE IS NO WILL
but there is property, the deceased is said to have died "Intestate"... and administrator is appointed by the Probate Court, and the estate is distributed according to the State Statue of Descent and Distribution.
IN EITHER CASE
an attorney should be consulted.
The Etiquette of Acknowledgment Cards
No longer are personal letters expected in return for expressions of sympathy . . . in most cases a signed Acknowledgment Card is sufficient to say "Thanks" for flowers, Mass cards, sympathy cards and personal services. Computer "e-mails" are not appropriate when expressing your gratitude.
Acknowledgments are usually sent between ten days and two weeks following the funeral.
If a more personal touch is desired a few words can be written on the Acknowledgment Card with reference to flowers, letters of condolence or to the services that were rendered. These words make the recipient feel that one's thanks are as personal as if they had been expressed verbally.
We hope the following suggestions will prove helpful in handling the various expressions of sympathy the family receives during bereavement.
The notes printed below in italics are only suggested copy. They may be changed to fit your situation.
To Clergy: Send a personal note thanking them for their spiritual help. If an honorarium or offering is sent it should be sent separately from the note to the clergyman.
* Dear Mr. Smith:
My husband and I thank you for the consolation you gave us during this trying time. The beauty of the services you conducted will help us tremendously.
Dear Father Quinn:
Thank you for the consolation you gave us and for your continuing prayers.
Or: Dear Father Smith or Dear Dr. Smith. But NOT Dear Reverend or Dear Rev. Smith.
To Bearers: (Including honorary but not professional) Include a message of thanks for their time and services on an Acknowledgment Card.
Thank you for your kindness in acting as a Bearer for Father. We asked you because you were one of his closest friends.
Letters: Replies may be short and written on an Acknowledgement Card.
The survivor of joint bank accounts can usually withdraw from the account without legal procedure. In large estates there may be federal and state taxes requiring releases from government officials. Bank accounts in the sole name of the deceased will usually require probate action. For small amounts, some banks have forms which permit payment of the balance toward funeral expenses if no other assets require probate. An attorney or bank will answer specific questions.
Safe Deposit Box
A safe deposit box held jointly or in the deceased's sole name, will be sealed until a county, state or bank official can take inventory. The bank must know date of death, interest of person making inquiry, whether the key is available and whether the box was rented in the deceased sole name or jointly with others.
Stocks in the deceased's sole name require probate action. Stocks owned jointly may be transferred to the surviving owner by presentation of a certified copy of the Death Certificate to each company in which stock is jointly owned. Stock held ad "Joint Tenants" transfers to the survivor upon proper documentation to the broker. Stock held as "Tenants in Common" requires probate. A broker or banker can assist you. Federal and state tax questions are best answered by an attorney or tax advisor.
SINGLE OWNERSHIP BOND is part of the estate and will be paid or re-issued to a qualified person. BENEFICIARY (one owner, payable on death to a beneficiary). Bond becomes property of beneficiary. If beneficiary dies first, no action required unless new beneficiary or co-owner is added. Proof of death is required for redemption or re-issue. CO-OWNERSHIP (two names on bond). Survivor becomes owner; a beneficiary or co-owner may be added. An attorney or banker should be consulted.
A monetary gift, in many states, may be made to a charitable organization by opening an account for yourself in a Trust savings account. At your death, the money in the account passes to the named charity. Consult your banker or attorney.
The services of an attorney are advisable in ALL real estate matters. Real estate owned jointly by husband and wife is automatically transferred to the survivor, but a certified copy of the Death Certificate should be filed with the county authorities in connection with the real estate deed. Real estate owned solely by the deceased or as a tenant in common, or jointly with someone other than the husband or wife, must be probated whether or not there is a will. Federal and state estate and gift taxes should be thoroughly researched by an attorney.
If the deceased was sole owner of a car, truck or trailer, it is part of the estate. Transfer of title information can be obtained from an attorney or the office license plates are sold.
Individual Retirement Account
Under IRS regulations, an INDIVIDUAL RETIREMENT ACCOUNT (IRA) may be established through a Bank, Insurance Company or Broker. At death any amount in the account will be paid to the beneficiaries. Consult your attorney, insurance agent, banker, or broker.
The local agents of all insuring companies should be promptly notified, and they will provide claim forms. All policies (even those that have lapsed) should be examined, seeking any extended coverage. All policies on the lives of the survivors should be examined to determine changes in beneficiaries.