Allow yourself the time to grieve, then do a little housekeeping. First, get essential paperwork in order. You'll want five to six copies of the death certificate so you can apply for life insurance benefits or financial accounts. If it seems like there are missing accounts, turn to checkbook registers, bank statements and past tax returns for clues. If nothing turns up, head for the state comptroller's office, or try websites that work as intermediaries, like MissingMoney.com. Remember to let an employer, pension provider or Social Security know of the death within a few days, and get an accountant on board to start working on the final tax return.
If you received an inheritance, put it on ice for six months in a money market account while you think about your long-term goals or consult a financial adviser. "Just breathe for awhile. Most people, when they get a check, freak out because they suddenly have access to something way outside of their norm," advises Jeanne Brutman, a financial planner in New York.
Please note: This is general information and is not intended to be legal advice. You should consult with your own financial advisor before making any major financial decisions, including investments or changes to your portfolio, and a qualified legal professional before executing any legal documents or taking any legal action. Harpo Productions, Inc., OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network, Discovery Communications LLC and their affiliated companies and entities are not responsible for any losses, damages or claims that may result from your financial or legal decisions.