If you're the surviving spouse
Decisions you make now will impact your future, so it's important that you're emotionally ready to start sorting through finances. When you are, this is what we suggest as a starting point:
- Assess your immediate financial needs and make sure the basics are covered while your spouse's estate is being settled.
- Consider your spouse's wishes concerning his or her estate and be ready to communicate those wishes.
- Gather your spouse's important legal and financial information.
- Reach out to professional advisors who are knowledgeable about estate settlement and inheritance topics. They can help you review legal documents and provide guidance for how to proceed.
- Our Inheritance section can help you understand important estate and inheritance issues.
- Use this Inheritance Checklist for all the legal and financial records you may need to collect, as well as to learn about financial benefits you may be entitled to from your loved one's employer, the government, or the military.
- If you've inherited a Fidelity IRA, call a Fidelity Inheritor Services specialist at 800-544-0003 to help guide you through the process, in addition to consulting your attorney or tax advisor.
If you're the executor
If you've been designated as an executor for someone who has recently passed, you will be responsible for settling his or her estate. This process can be time-consuming and complicated. You may wish to hire an attorney who is knowledgeable about estate administration and is familiar with the probate laws in the primary state of residence of the deceased. The attorney can help you understand your responsibilities as an executor while you work through the following steps:
- Apply for an Employer Identification Number (EIN) from the IRS to identify the deceased's estate accounts during the account transfer and estate settlement process.
- Petition the probate court to validate the deceased's will and certify the executor (or personal representative) named in the will. If the deceased died without a will, the court will appoint an administrator.
- Publish a "notice of probate" in local newspapers to give creditors and beneficiaries public notice of the decedent's death and the appointment of the personal representative.
- Our Executor & Trustee Guidelines can help you understand many of your responsibilities as the executor of someone's estate.
If you're inheriting assets
You may need to make important financial decisions that can impact your current taxes and future assets. To help you with these decisions on your inherited assets, you'll want to settle the estate, organize your records, and assess the resources available to you as you plan for the future.
- Organize all the legal and financial documents you have collected for easy reference.
- Begin transferring assets to yourself and/or other designated beneficiaries. Note this process may take several weeks to complete.
- Assess your changed financial situation, specifically your net worth—the difference between your assets and your liabilities—to help you determine new goals and financial plans.
- Our Inheritance Basics section can help you address many of the details with settling your loved one's estate.
- Our Probate for Inheritances section can help you better understand the type of property transfers that could or could not pass on to heirs without significant delays.
- Our Inheritance Checklist can guide you in gathering the information you will need.
Maximize your inheritance
Whether you've been managing your household finances for years or you have never touched a checkbook, you may need help understanding tax implications, retirement income planning, and how to make the most of Inherited IRA or Keogh assets.
- Understand the tax implications of withdrawing from your inherited assets and how your income tax situation could change.
- Determine if all your assets, including those you may have inherited, can cover your financial needs throughout all of your retirement years by creating a retirement income plan.
- Determine how you can make the most of Inherited IRA or Keogh assets.
- If you need one-on-one investment guidance, call 800-343-3548 for a complimentary portfolio review or to create a retirement plan with an experienced Fidelity representative.
- If you've inherited an IRA, consider opening a Fidelity Inherited IRA to keep the tax benefits of a retirement account.
- Attend helpful seminars at a Fidelity Investor Center, including Fundamentals of Retirement Income Planning, Establishing and Maintaining Your Estate Plan, and Tax-Smart Investing.