They’re Dead. Now What?

My oldest client passed away this week and it’s been over 5 months since my oldest aunt, my Second Mom, passed away. It’s a sad time, yet a reminder to spend time with those we love and care about. It’s also a time to take care of ourselves. The world just changed, dramatically, for their families and for me.

I came into this business through a life insurance company and I remember handling my first death claim for a policy that didn’t have a current agent assigned to it. The son told me that his father had cancelled a couple of other life insurance policies within the prior 2 years and used the cash value to take the entire family on a trip. The memories of that trip meant so much more to him and his mother than them receiving a bigger death benefit that day.


1. Tell the people you love that you do love them. Spend time with them creating memories.
2. Wait a year before making any major life decisions. If there’s a spouse or are family members living in the house, stay in the house a year and let things settle before moving.
3. Order more death certificates than you think you need. It’s easier and cheaper to get them now than having to go back and get more later. 15 is usually a good number.
4. Talk with your financial advisor and allow them to help you through the process of settling the estate. Fortunately, handling the details of estate settlement is something that most people only have to do once or twice in their lives. This is what we do and we work with the attorneys and accountants which can save time. We can help you file the claims and put things in order.
5. Make the time to review your own estate plan. Read your will and trust again. Are changes needed? Do healthcare directives need to be updated? Powers of Attorney?
6. Update your digital legacy. Who has access to your passwords? Who is named as the person who can continue or close your Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, e-mail accounts and other digital accounts?
7. Review and update beneficiary designations on all of your accounts; Transfer on Death, Group Life insurance, 401k’s, pension plans, individual life insurance, insurance purchased through banks and credit unions, and also update third party notifications on Long Term Care insurance.

And in the end, find some humor in the process as well. Yes. It’s a sad time, but there’s always something that happens that can add some levity to it.

Article By: Mark A. Buhrke, ChFC®, CLU® , Vice President, Private CFO™
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About the author  ⁄ Mark Buhrke

Mark Buhrke

Mark grew up in the suburbs of Chicago and spent his junior high and high school years in a small town in Central Illinois. After graduating from Concordia University Chicago with double majors in Computer Science and Business Administration and a minor in Music, he stayed in Chicago until moving to Atlanta in 2002. He’s been helping his clients have more peace and confidence regarding their financial world and estate planning since 1985. He doesn’t bring “the right” answer but he brings 30 years of asking the right questions so that his clients uncover their own “right answers”. Background and qualification information is available at FINRA's BrokerCheck website.

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