While you may never be prepared for the loss of a parent, there are steps you can take to ease the burden of loss and make the transition easier when the time comes.
First, know where your parent’s key documents are located. This could include everything from a last will and testament and trust documents to digital passwords for online bill pay, email, or social media.
Second, set aside cash to cover possible living expenses while waiting for the estate to be opened. The process of opening an estate can take a month or more, so it is a good idea to have funds handy to pay for any monthly bills (i.e., for home upkeep or utilities).
After a parent’s death, consider the following measures:
Take time to grieve. During this difficult time, it is important to emotionally care for yourself and others in your family. Remember that others may grieve differently than you after a loved one’s death.
Don’t be afraid to say no or ask for help if you are named as the executor of the estate, personal representative, or trustee. A neutral professional executor, trustee, or agent can be helpful for maintaining family continuity and simplifying the process of the distribution and division of the assets.
Discuss family heirlooms. The smallest, most unassuming possessions can sometimes trigger the largest family disagreements.
Make specific plans for dependents with addiction issues, mental health concerns, or developmental disabilities to ensure their care once a parent or guardian is no longer around.
Know who may access digital assets (i.e., social media accounts, photos on a cell phone or computer, airline miles, digital documents, etc.) after death and how the decedent would like those assets handled. In states like Tennessee, account holders retain control of their digital property and can plan for what will happen to them after they die (Tenn. Code Ann. §35-8-101 et seq.).
Be patient. The process of wrapping up the affairs and estate of a loved one can often take six to eighteen months.
Honor your parent’s legacy. After the loss of a loved one, be sure to tell stories and pass down family traditions to the next generation to keep their memory alive and strengthen family relationships.