In this episode, Brian Skrobonja sheds light on the complex and often overwhelming process of managing an estate after the loss of a loved one. This is a step-by-step guide from the initial steps you need to take after a loved one passes, to the intricate details of settling an estate.

Brian offers valuable advice and practical tips to navigate this difficult time with grace and efficiency.

  • Having a clearly defined process in place for managing an estate can help avoid the emotional drain of making important decisions through the loss of a loved one.
  • Friends and family may wish well and provide advice on what to do, but without a proper plan in place, that can lead to more financial problems in the future.
  • Setting expectations for yourself and the beneficiaries of the estate is a great first step to help minimize the confusion and questions around how long it will take to settle an estate. This process can take anywhere from two months to several years depending on the type of assets that are owned and the size and complexity of the estate.
  • A funeral home director will often help obtain death certificates, which will be required before making any claims. It’s a good idea to request 10 to 12 original documents because, once submitted, you may not get them back.
  • It’s important to first locate the deceased’s will, trust, or other estate documents they have on file. If none of these exist, you could have difficulty settling a person’s estate which will most likely require an attorney to assist you through the probate process.
  • Check to determine if the person may have left a letter of instruction behind as well. A letter of instruction is not a legal document, but it’s a letter that can provide more personal intentions and information regarding an estate.
  • The next step is to begin gathering an itemized list of all known financial institutions where money is held and life insurance companies for filing a claim. It’s a good idea to put the list together before jumping into making calls because you’ll want to keep track of phone conversations and other instructions.
  • Tip: A really good practice is to keep a journal or Excel spreadsheet of all the conversations to keep track of everything. You’ll want to avoid writing on the back of envelopes or scrap pieces of paper as that can become really unmanageable.
  • Checks made out to the deceased will require a bank account to deposit them. Avoid closing bank accounts too early because of this.
  • You will have to notify Social Security that a death has occurred as well as any pension provider to have payments stopped and any eligible benefits paid to the estate.
  • If your loved one served in the military, you may be eligible for veterans benefits. You can get more information about these benefits by visiting
  • Over the next one to three months, you will want to screen incoming mail, both physical and email, to look for and gather bills, statements, and notices relating to various types of accounts and insurance policies. You will want to review credit card statements to identify subscriptions or other recurring charges to follow up with the service providers about cancellation.
  • Next, notify creditors and credit card companies that were a part of your loved ones credit history. You can notify the big three credit bureaus; Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion, of their passing, which can usually be done online over the phone or by letter.
  • You will also want to locate where they filed important documents to find deeds, titles to real estate, car titles, or lease agreements as well as storage space keys and account records.
  • Look for a computer file or printout with digital account passwords so you can disable any active social media accounts.
  • If the person was still working, contact the human resources office at their place of work to inform them of what has happened, the HR officer may need you to fill out some paperwork pertaining to retirement plans, health benefits and compensation for unused vacation time.
  • If your loved one owned a small business or professional practice, a discussion with business partners and clients may be necessary as well as consulting with the company attorney who has advised the business.
  • If there was a child in college, it may be a good idea to contact the Financial Aid Office to inform them of what has happened. Depending on the school and the financial situation the surviving child may qualify for more assistance.
  • Before rushing into this process, you should consider speaking with a financial advisor and attorney. There are so many areas where you can make expensive mistakes, working with a professional through this difficult time is usually the best decision.



Mentioned in this episode:

Common Sense Financial Podcast on YouTube 

Common Sense Financial Podcast on Spotify