June 01, 2014

ABA/AARP Checklist for Family Survivors: A Guide to Practical and Legal Matters When Someone You Love Dies, by Sally Balch Hurme

Charles A. Collier

The ABA Senior Lawyers Division and AARP have joined together to publish a very useful new book, the ABA/AARP Checklist for Family Survivors (ABA Publishing, February 2014, www.ShopABA.org), written by Sally Balch Hurme. Ms. Hurme is an elder law attorney and senior project manager for AARP who has worked for the organization for more than 20 years. She is also the author of the book the Senior Lawyers Division published several years ago entitled The ABA Checklist for Family Heirs.

The new book provides guidance for family members who find themselves handling matters for a deceased loved one. It is intended to be used to help family members gather information and make initial decisions. It provides answers to the question, “What do we need to do now?” The checklists are broken down by topic; Chapter One, for example, “Do First Things First,” covers such things as burial, cremation, donation of organs, funerals, and obituaries. Chapter Two deals with “Getting Organized for What Comes Next” and addresses setting up a filing system, copying documents, and working with family members to obtain information. Chapter Three is “Build a Team You Can Rely On,” which discusses using family members’ knowledge and special expertise, as well as finding a lawyer and financial advisor.

The next chapters deal with such things as survivors’ benefits, bank accounts, investments, insurance, real estate, payment of debts, and how to handle and dispose of all of the accumulated papers and “stuff” in a house. All these steps are intended to be taken prior to actually beginning a probate or other estate administration, if needed.

This book provides practical answers for handling immediate needs, assets, social security issues, tax issues, and others matters. It is written for laymen, not lawyers, but is useful for lawyers personally, as well as for clients. This book is also useful for any family, regardless of the size of the estate that may be left behind. You may wish to consult it for your own personal family situation, and you may also wish to provide copies of this book to clients.

Even though it is directed to “family survivors,” individuals may also find it useful to fill out some of those checklists as a planning tool and to provide helpful information in advance to family members about funeral arrangements and the nature of assets such as bank accounts, securities, insurance, etc. Thus, the book potentially has a dual purpose.

A CD is included with the book; it contains all the various forms and checklists that can be filled out. Most of the forms are reproduced in the book itself and can be used as a basic record for an estate.

The price is $19.95, and when used with the previously published Checklist for Family Heirs, provides useful guidance. You will find this to be a very valuable addition to your personal library and a very valuable guide to share with clients. Every family is faced with issues considered in the Checklist for Family Survivors.

Sally Hurme writes with clarity and gives clear explanations of various types of assets and issues that can arise following a person’s death. This is a book that should be in every lawyer’s library to share with clients and in every home to help when a loved one passes away.

Charles A. Collier

Charles A. Collier is retired from the California firm of Irell & Manella. He is chair of the SLD’s Book Publishing Committee and a member of the Experience Editorial Board.