What To Do When Someone Close Passes Away
When a husband or wife, mother or father, sibling, partner or other loved one passes away we experience one of the most difficult times of our lives. The finality of death brings with it a host of second-guessing, and we often find ourselves asking, “what could I have done differently?”
If you’ve lost someone close to you, it’s quite possible you’re experiencing a wide and sometimes strange array of emotions. Sadness and grief, of course, but usually also an odd mix of confusion, exhaustion, guilt, relief, frustration, anger and bewilderment are all common. You may find yourself chastising yourself for some of these feelings, as if you shouldn’t be feeling them.
It may make little difference whether the death was sudden or “not unexpected.” The truth is we are rarely equipped to “expect” the end of someone’s life.
You will receive advice by the truckload, often without asking for it.
Probably second only to child raising, grieving is a process that is saddled with unsolicited recommendations. Adding to the confusion is that all of this advice is usually from people close to you who mean well but are having trouble dealing with grief – yours or theirs.
This advice usually falls into two categories: Emotional/Personal and Financial/Legal.
In the Emotional/Personal category, you may hear things like: “you have to clean out the closet,” “wait a year to clean out the closet.” “You need to keep busy,” “don’t be alone,” “I have a great friend you should meet,” “have you thought about seeing a counselor?”, “there’s a support group at my church,” “it’s okay to cry,” “try to focus on the positive,” on and on…
In the Financial/Legal category you may hear things like: “don’t sell anything for a year,” “you don’t need a probate estate,” “you do need a probate estate,” “capital gains basis step-up,” “you should pay off your spouse’s debts, it’s the right thing to do,” “don’t make any payments,” “you need to get the legal proceedings and estate settlement behind you,” “it’s time to sell,” “it’s time to buy,” on and on…
When hearing all of this from people you love and trust, it is hard to know just what to do. Couple that with the difficult soup of emotions described above and frequently the period after a loved one’s death can become stressful and overwhelming. You may even feel burdened with a sense of obligation to the deceased or your family: “don’t screw this up!”
You may be inclined to follow certain recommendations. For example, you may be tempted to start tackling the Financial/Legal to-do list as a way to “keep busy,” “move forward,” etc. Often this has the effect of only temporarily postponing the grieving process.
Or you may be inclined to do absolutely nothing. Maybe you’re feeling “overload paralysis” from all the well-meaning advice. Maybe you’re just too upset to find motivation.
There is no right way to grieve.
The point is that your grieving process, and the process of settling a loved one’s estate are unique to you and to that estate.
Grieving is influenced by:
- The circumstances surrounding the death (illness, hospital stays, your last words to each other, etc.);
- Your personality, spirituality and tendencies;
- The deceased’s personality, spirituality and tendencies;
- Various facets of your relationship with him or her before the death; and
- The state of your relationship with the deceased now.
What to do?
For starters, try to take a step back. Rarely is there anything truly urgent on the Financial/Legal side that requires immediate attention. State laws and tax laws provide ample time to prepare necessary documentation after a loved one’s death.
Sure, the light bill needs to be paid as usual, and maybe an account needs to be opened or closed. But major decisions like what to do with the house, IRA, investments, insurance, etc. – you usually have months to make a reasoned decision.
Try not to let the Financial/Legal matters add stress to grieving’s emotional burden. Get some professional advice on that part; lean on family and friends for the rest.
Let the grieving take its course.
IF you’d like our help, please feel free to get in touch.
About Oakstone Law, PL
Oakstone Law PL was founded by Bob Kleinknecht. A member of the Family Trust Subcommittee, the Estate Tax & Trust Planning (ETTP) Committee and the Real Property, Probate & Trust Law (RPPTL) Section of the Florida Bar, Kleinknecht has 15 years’ experience.
Prior to founding Oakstone law, he spent more than eight years serving as a personal, in-house estate, tax and charitable planning attorney for a Forbes 400 family in New York and Florida. Before that he was an estate planning and estate settlement attorney with prominent firms in Boston and Washington, D.C. after beginning his career with a boutique firm in Naples, Florida.
Licensed in Florida and Massachusetts, Kleinknecht has developed a practice model that eliminates billing by the hour and offers a streamlined, customized client process supported by technology, security and a personal approach.
For more information on Oakstone Law, click here. To get in touch with us, click here to send us an email, or call 239-206-3454. Our office is located at 5137 Castello Drive, Suite 2 in Naples, Florida 34103.