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Plan Well, Retire Well

Saving and investing your money

Protect Your Loved One's Identity after Death


In Loved One's Documents Go Missing and Others Materialize Karen wrote about the challenges of tracking down documents after her father died. Sometimes when a close relative dies it can be hard to find needed documents. My experience with my mother-in-law's death was a little different; we had way too many papers! Some people throw away papers (or shred them) when they're not needed anymore; others don't. Our challenge has been trying to figure out which financial accounts are still open and determining if we're missing any.

If you find yourself in this situation, one tip I can share is for executors to ask for copies of the deceased person's credit reports. Looking at the credit reports is a one way to see which financial accounts, such as credit cards and other loans, are active. Then you can close these financial accounts. The credit report may have open and closed accounts listed; check their status carefully.

When closing accounts and asking for credit reports, we were surprised to find that unofficial copies of the death certificate worked for us. We didn't need the official copies that cost money!

When you contact the credit bureaus (remember you need to contact all three), mail a copy of the death certificate to each bureau. When you notify the bureaus of the death, they will then add a deceased notification to the credit file. This credit freeze will prevent anyone from using the deceased person's identity to open a new account. Here is the credit bureaus' contact information.

Equifax: Equifax Information Services LLC, Office of Consumer Affairs, PO Box 105139, Atlanta, GA 30348; (800) 685-1111; www.equifax.com

Experian: Experian PO Box 9701, Allen, TX 75013; (888) 397-3742; www.experian.com; Experian's website requests that executors also send "proof that you are authorized to act on his behalf, such as a copy of a legal document with a court seal indicating you are the executor of the estate."

TransUnion: TransUnion LLC, P.O. Box 2000, Chester, PA 19022; (888) 909-8872, www.transunion.com.

One more tip, after sorting through lots of paper, I am more motivated to deal with my own paper clutter. I am pleased to recommend "Dealing with Clutter," a University of Illinois Extension website which has information about which papers to keep and strategies to motivate us all to clean out.

This is a continuation of a blog thread that Karen Chan began in March. Karen and I both recently lost a loved one and thought our experiences dealing with this loss (especially the financial aspects) might be an interesting blog series. Neither of us is an attorney or an authority on estate planning, and these posts will NOT give any kind of legal or estate planning advice. We want this to be a conversation, and we invite you to comment and share your own experiences. If you'd like to read the complete blog thread, click on the category "Estate Planning."



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Kathy & Karen, Thanks for this, AGAIN. After 10 years I was contacted by an estranged relative to collect on some obscure stock holding for a purported purpose. CAUTION TO ALL, anyone can say anything about an asset & purported use of it to get control of it. This reminder to follow up with credit agencies databases & to not pay anyone to obtain financial or other assets for you that are out there! FYI the stock transfer agents have been consolidating and are a huge help & resource for "unknown and lost" stock and other investment holdings. The IRS has an entire division handling estates and is a informed aid to these matters, especially when there is a dispute among heirs, etc. (they were for me). Don't forget the regulators of financial instruments, SIPC, SEC, etc. Keep up the excellent work! You all merit a trophy for your award winning work. VK
by V. Kash on Sunday 6/9/2013

Thanks for sharing, VK. And we appreciate your kind words.
by Karen Chan on Thursday 6/13/2013