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How to reduce the risk of identity theft when a loved one dies

When a loved one passes away, a crucial step in minimizing the risk of a new trend in identity theft—afterlife identity theft—is to notify the proper entities, such as government and credit reporting agencies, banks, and creditors of a loved one’s death.

To expedite notification, the National Funeral Directors Association (NFDA) recommends that a survivor initially make contact with government and credit reporting agencies, banks, and creditors by telephone followed by written confirmation. Many of the governmental agencies and financial institutions require the decedent’s social security number, a (sometimes a certified) copy of the death certificate, and verification of the appointment by a probate court of an executor or administrator of the estate. It is imperative that to retain all copies of the notices and correspondence sent to these agencies. In some instances, a funeral home may notify some of these agencies as part of their services.

The NFDA provides a list of organizations to notify, including government agencies, credit reporting agencies, creditors, including:

  • Social Security Administration
  • Veteran’s Administration (if the decedent formerly served in the military)
  • Defense Finance and Accounting Service (military service retiree receiving benefits)
  • Office of Personnel Management (if the decedent is a former federal civil service employee)
  • U.S. Citizen and Immigration Service (If the decedent was not a U.S. citizen)
  • State Department of Motor Vehicles (If the decedent had a driver’s license)
  • Credit card and merchant card companies
  • Banks, savings and loan associations and credit unions
  • Mortgage companies and lenders
  • Financial planners and stock brokers
  • Pension providers
  • Life insurers and annuity companies
  • Health, medical and dental insurers
  • Disability insurers
  • Automotive insurer
  • Mutual benefit companies
  • All three credit reporting agencies: Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion
  • Any memberships held by the decedent (such as health clubs, professional associations, clubs, libraries, and so on.)

And the decedent can be listed on the Deceased Do Not Contact List, maintained by the Direct Marketing Association a service that removes the decedent from all direct mailing lists.

An estate planning attorney can assist you in creating a highly effective estate plan, which can reduce not only the risk of identity theft, but also the hardships for your family.

Note from the author: As a Personal Family Lawyer, I can further advise you on all your options and make things as easy as possible for your family during a Family Wealth Planning Session. If you would like to have a talk about estate planning for your family, call our office today to schedule a time for us to sit down and talk. We normally charge $750 for a Family Wealth Planning Session, and this month I’ve made space for the next two people who mention this article to have a complete planning session at no charge. Call today at (720) 266-8190 and mention this article.


Article contributed by Wills & Wellness.