Many people do not realize it, but taking steps to prevent identity theft is an important part of estate planning. Sadly, more and more criminals are taking advantage of grieving families by stealing the identities of deceased individuals. An identity thief can use a deceased person’s name and personal information to obtain and use credit cards that are in the deceased person’s name, apply for loans, falsify tax returns, and more. If your loved one’s identity is stolen after they pass away, you will be burdened with resolving the issue with law enforcement and financial institutions. Follow these steps to minimize the chances of your loved one’s identity being stolen after they pass away.
Tip #1: Notify Interested Financial Companies of the Death
When a loved one dies, it is usually up to the executor of the estate to contact financial institutions and close accounts. It is important to do this as soon as possible. Unscrupulous individuals can take advantage of the window of time between when an individual dies and when the decedent’s finances are settled. Contact every bank that your loved one had an account with and notify them that your loved one has passed away. You should notify the banks even if the deceased person’s spouse or another person is still listed on the accounts. You will also need to notify any lenders, mortgage companies, or investment companies your loved one had business with.
Tip #2: Close Credit Cards and Contact the Major Credit Bureaus
You will need to compile a list of all of your loved one’s credit card accounts so that you can close them. Looking through their purse or wallet can give you some information, but a better idea may be to request a copy of their credit report. You should also continue to monitor their credit report for suspicious activity. The Social Security Administration (SSA) will eventually notify the credit bureaus of your loved one’s passing but doing so yourself may expedite the process and help prevent an identity thief from opening a new line of credit under your loved one’s name. Sometimes a funeral director will contact the SSA on behalf of a family, but contacting the SSA, as well as the Internal Revenue Service, is ultimately the surviving family member’s responsibility.
Tip #3: Do Not Reveal Identifying Information Online or in the Obituary
Many criminals gather information about the recently deceased by combing through obituaries and social media posts. It is important not to disclose information about your loved one which could be used by criminals to illegally access their social security number. Avoid mentioning the deceased’s mother’s maiden name, birth date, and full address in any notices of their death.
Contact a Lombard Estate Planning Lawyer
For estate planning guidance from an experienced DuPage County estate planning attorney, contact A. Traub & Associates. Call our office at 630-426-0196 to schedule a confidential consultation to discuss your needs.