Everywhere we look today, there are reports of stolen identities and fraudulent usage of personal identifying information. We have protected passwords, technology firewalls, credit card chips, and even clothing and wallets to lessen the potential to become a victim. When a loved one dies, they maintain an identity in that the estate owns assets, files taxes and receives benefits. If settling an estate is not enough of an emotional and complex process, dealing with identity theft of a deceased individual will complicate the administration.
According to the Identity Theft Resource Center and the Federal Trade Commission, there are a number of ways to protect the identity of the deceased. Before taking any actions, it is recommended to consult with an attorney for legal advice.
The executor or authorized individual handling the affairs of the decedent should be the person to take the following suggested steps, depending on the specific estate. First, credit card companies, financial institutions, and places where the deceased had accounts should be notified. Keep in mind there may be estate debts that will need to be addressed and a death certificate will be required by the company. If an account is closed, it may be prudent to list an alert on the account that the individual is deceased to prevent theft or forgery.
Also, credit reporting agencies should be contacted in writing so the three major bureaus know not to issue credit, and to list the executor or representative in case of problems. In addition, when doing so, request a copy of the decedent’s credit report so you can check active credit cards, collection matters or relevant account information.
Other agencies to notify include Social Security Administration, Veteran’s Affairs, and Department of Motor Vehicles. Finally, private membership programs and insurance companies should be advised of the debt. Taking steps to protect the identity of the decedent will help with smoother estate administration and provide peace of mind.