What to Do After a Parent's Death?

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Your parents have recently passed, either together or at different times. You were appointed to be the executor of their estate, which is a sobering responsibility. Rely on a good estates attorney for help. You may have felt emotionally tied to your parents and were unable to follow your dreams or live your life as you had wished. You have to resolve your feelings so you can move ahead.

Legal Affairs

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Your parents may have made you responsible for their legal and financial affairs before they both passed, or you were given this responsibility upon their deaths. You don’t have to start looking at legal or financial papers immediately. Give yourself some breathing room so you can grieve and adjust to their loss. Take care of yourself, your family and your emotional needs before you begin taking on the responsibility of carrying out your parent’s final wishes.

You should contact your parents’ attorney approximately one month after your parent’s death. While it won’t be easy to face or go through, keep in mind that once you’ve begun the process of going through their affairs, you will be able to finish sooner than if you had waited, according to Jennifer H. Friedman, a trusts and estates attorney from Menlo Park, California.

Since your parents appointed you the executor of their estate, you’ll have what is called “fiduciary” responsibility for managing their assets. You’ll need a list of their debts and assets (life insurance policies, bank accounts, annuities and investments.) If your parents had any debts, you’ll have to pay them off. If their debts were larger than their assets, you aren’t responsible for the unpaid balance. Don’t feel like you have to decide right away what you want to do with your parents’ home. Wait until you know where your parents stood financially before deciding what to do.

Be Yourself

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If you were very close emotionally to your parents or if they relied heavily on you for their social needs, you’ll be able to be more yourself are after their deaths. While this isn’t the case for all families, some adult children do find that they can follow their own wishes and cultivate friendships more readily once their parents have died.

Some may experience guilt about this change, feeling as if they were denying the importance of their parents in their lives, but it is actually a healthy development, according to psychotherapist Jeanne Safer. If this is the case for you, grieve your loss, then look at what life has to offer and decide what you need to to do by yourself.

Follow Your Dream

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Take stock of who you are and follow your dream. If you have always wanted to be an architect, decide whether you wish to pursue your dream. First, look at how your parents influenced your decisions before their deaths and why they did so. Some parents who may have been children of the Depression truly felt they were protecting their children in steering them away from their dreams--they wanted to protect them from a potential financial or economic disaster, says Safer. Don’t be angry with them because, even as they were keeping you from achieving your dream, they did so out of love for you.

Begin to take stock of your relationship with your parents and use your memories, both good and bad, to cement who you are.