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Financial Concerns After Death

By MARY ELLEN KALUZA 

Death is a tough topic. We fear it for ourselves and we fear it for those we love. On top of the grief, it is a lot of work to lose someone close to you. This blog is meant to help you get started with some of the important tasks around the departed’s finances that will make things much easier if attended to soon after the death. 

Get the Death Certificate 

Typically the funeral home supplies the death certificate. You can request several copies from the funeral home—you’ll need them. They are generally less expensive at this time, and will save you trips to the county vital records office for additional copies. Five to ten copies is not excessive, especially if there is property to be sold. 

Contact the Social Security Administration 

Even if the deceased was not receiving benefits, you want to notify them.. Call the SSA at 1-800-772-1213. (The funeral home may contact them for you.) Do this for a few reasons: 

Survivors may be eligible for benefits 

Prevent identity theft (yes, stealing the identity of the dead is a thing) 

Learn if you must return any payments received (payments received for the month of death may have to be returned to Social Security) 

Notify Financial Institutions and Creditors 

Hopefully, your loved one left financial records in good order and it will be easy to track down where money is and where money is owed. 

If there are Payable-on- Death beneficiaries on the accounts they can claim the money immediately with a death certificate. 

Creditors will close accounts to prevent unauthorized use. 

Report the Death to the Credit Bureaus 

Identity thieves do watch obituaries. Sadly, family members may even seize the opportunity. Send a letter and copy of the death certificate (originals usually not necessary) to one credit bureau – they will contact the other two. It is worth the extra cost to send certified mail. 

Equifax, P.O. Box 105139, Atlanta, GA 30348-5139 

Experian, P.O. Box 4500, Allen, TX 75013 

TransUnion, P.O. Box 2000, Chester, PA 19016 

Order Credit Reports 

This is a useful way to identify all debts. Send a letter along with the following information about the deceased: 

Legal name 

Social Security Number 

Date of birth 

Date of death 

Last known address 

A copy of the death certificate or letters testamentary 

Mail the request and information to each of the three of the credit reporting companies listed above. Include your name and address. 

Change Mailing Address (if the deceased lived alone) 

You’ll need valid proof that you are the appointed executor or administrator and authorized to manage the deceased person’s mail. 

Complete a change of address form at a Post Office location. 

Have someone bring in the mail until the address change is in effect. Piled up mail alerts thieves that a home is not occupied. 

Stop advertising mail by registering on the Direct Marketing Association “Deceased Do Not Contact” list at DMA. org. 

Set Up a Filing System 

You will thank yourself for this. Keep: 

Death certificates 

Copies of all correspondence 

Detailed notes of all phone calls, etc. 

Receipts for all expenses including the funeral, documents, mailing, etc. 

Medical bills for the deceased 

Other debts 

Tax returns 

And more, depending on the complexity of the estate 

Don’t Rush to Divvy up Money Left by the Deceased or Pay Their Debts 

States have a hierarchy of debts to be paid by the estate of a deceased person. This includes possibly repaying the state for medical assistance received. Know the laws of your state first, or survivors may be held responsible. Seek legal advice. 

Take care of yourself 

Most of us will be faced with losing a loved one. It is hard on so many fronts. Having a starting point in dealing with the finances can help. If you find yourself in this position, I wish you comfort and peace. 

Author Mary Ellen Kaluza is a Certified Financial Counselor with LSS Financial Counseling. A version of this blog first appeared in Sense & Centsibility blog page. 

LSS Financial Counseling offers free counseling for budgeting, debt, student loans, foreclosure prevention, credit report reviews, and much more. 

Phone: 888-577-2227 Website: www.lssfinancialcounseling.org 

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