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Employee has passed away and i am the beneficiary, how do i go about checking on any money he or beneficiaries are due?

Sep 20, 2013 by william from Muleshoe, TX in  |  Flag
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Hi William, I'm so sorry for your loss. Your question seems to indicate that you may be referring to monies the employee was due from the employer - for example from a group life insurance policy, accident policy, worker's comp benefits, health benefits, 401(k), pension plan, etc. For information regarding all of these benefits, your best first step is to get in contact with the Human Resources department of the company. They should be able to guide you about employee benefits. Usually you can find these numbers online. If you can't find that specific department, call the company's local (or national) number and tell the operator why you're calling. Usually they can direct you to the right location.

I'm going to follow a line of thought and make a remark about other financial assets outside of the employer. It can be tough in this area to know where to start, because the person could have accounts virtually anywhere. Suggestions I would make would include going through the individual's paper records to find out what financial institutions they dealt with (for example, banks, investment companies, and insurance companies). You could also see if they had a financial advisor. If so, I would definitely make a call to that individual(s). Be aware that before information is released to you from institutions or advisors, they may want some kind of proof of the individual's death. Officially, to distribute assets, they'll want a death certificate. Whether or not you'll need that before they'll talk to you depends on the institution.

I have a document I wrote that's posted elsewhere on this site. It's called "Eight Steps for Widows to Well Being". You didn't mention this individual being a spouse, so it might not all apply to your situation, but you may want to peruse this guide to see if there's information there that helps you. You should be able to find it if you type in my name and scroll down to the area marked 'Top Guides'.

Good luck with your efforts during this difficult time.

Michelle L. Ash http://www.WealthGuards.com

Comment   |  Flag   |  Sep 20, 2013 from Jacksonville, FL

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4 votes

Hi William,

I wanted to add a little bit to what Michelle has said. It sounds as you might be the executor of the estate - or at least know the person who is. As you start doing what Michelle has suggested - going through the papers and finding out all the assets and accounts - you (meaning either the deceased or the executor) will start getting BILLS.

You may also find that beneficiaries get "antsy" for their "cut."

Here is some advice - DO NOT DO NOT DO NOT DO NOT start paying those bills right away. Do not start "doling out" monies to beneficiaries. It doesn't matter what the bills are, or who they are from. Who gets paid, and in what order - is for the PROBATE COURT to decide. So you (or the executor) should just gather up the bills, account for them, and then those bills become a debt of the deceased's estate - and the PROBATE COURT decides who, when, and in what order.

The same goes with inheritances to beneficiaries. Be patient before cutting those checks. Just because you (or the executor) has the court papers known as "Letters Testamentary" that authorizes you to move that money doesn't mean that you should move that money right away - even though you might get considerable pressure to do so.

I mention this because we see many executors pay bills (in particular medical bills) as soon as they get them - and dole out money to beneficiaries because the family has needs. But, the bills pile up and they might run out of money and there are still more bills to pay. Also, some of the bills might be fraudulent, created as a result of unsavory characters seeing the obituary in the paper. In the event that the probate court disagrees with the bill-paying decisions of the executor - the executor - as well as beneficiaries that have received beneficiary payments can be held PERSONALLY LIABLE for the payment of those bills and inheritances can be "clawed back." Which can cause tax liabilities when we are talking about IRA's and 401k's if those assets have been transferred to beneficiary accounts.

So, despite the fact that this period of time can be a harrowing, frustrating, nerve-wracking time - please be patient through the process and let the probate period work. Most people's probate only lasts several months.

Good luck with your efforts and my condolences on your loss.

Jon Castle http://www.WealthGuards.com

Comment   |  Flag   |  Sep 20, 2013 from Jacksonville, FL

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My condolences on your loss. As a former probate paralegal, I often helped clients locate ‘lost’ assets. One of the best places to obtain information about a person’s assets is on their recent tax return. Most sources of income to the decedent should be reported there. Schedule B lists interest and dividend-paying assets like bank and brokerage accounts, and individual securities. If the decedent was taking distributions from an IRA or retirement plan, or collecting a pension, the income should be listed on lines 15 and 16 of the 1040. Schedule A may also be helpful in locating real estate through the reporting of property taxes. People often store their W-2s and 1099s with their tax returns, so you may actually find contact information for the companies that paid the income.

Finally, be sure to check for unclaimed assets with the Department of Financial Services in State where the decedent resided. Most of them have user-friendly websites that are searchable by name.

Kris d'Esterhazy http://www.WealthGuards.com

Comment   |  Flag   |  Sep 20, 2013 from Jacksonville, FL

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Hi William. My sympathies go out to you. Good advice from Michelle. Definitely start with HR and don't try to do this alone. It can be too complex.

One other mention: if you are not the spouse and inherit money that will moved into an Inherited IRA, be sure to work with your new custodian to get the account set up correctly before moving any money. Doing the paperwork wrong on this can create tax issues for you.

Comment   |  Flag   |  Sep 20, 2013 from River Hills, SC

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William, lots of good advice.

If you are beneficiary of a retirement plan or insurance policy, there would be actual beneficiaries listed; it does not go through an executor or courts or probate. You can go to directly to company and claim the proceeds. However, you will need to know the company to go to. If you do not know this, you just have to poke around and hope it comes to light. If you are a beneficiary and can not be found, the monies should eventually end up at the 'Unclaimed Money' fund in your state, but this could take awhile.

If you are executor of estate, or as they call it in Florida, the Personal Representative, you can make more probing inquiries as to his possessions. Hopefully he would have a will and other personal papers for you to have access to. If you are not the executor, you may or may not have access to anything. Very specific rules as to transfer of personal property or real property vary by state.

I hope this helps

Comment   |  Flag   |  Sep 20, 2013 from Delray Beach, FL

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