As we’ve previously covered, there are many things that need to be done when a loved one dies. One of the most important is contacting and notifying people of the death. Obviously, you will need to inform family, friends, co-workers, and employers, but there are also several government agencies, banks, creditors, and credit reporting groups that will need to be contacted as well. Failing can lead to serious problems for you and yours down the line, which is the last thing you want to deal with when you’re still in mourning.
To avoid this, it is vital to be aware of the most important organizations you should contact after the death of a loved one. It will save you and your family a lot of grief during what is already a very trying time.
Taking the First Steps
Before contacting anyone, you should find your decedent’s social security number, a copy of the death certificate, and (if you’re the executor of the estate) your appointment form from the probate court. Many government organizations and financial agencies will need this information, so be sure to have it on hand. Additionally, it is good to be thorough with your communications: after contacting an organization by phone, send written verification as well, making sure to make copies of all notices that you send out.
Be aware that everyone is a unique case: for some people, it won’t be necessary to contact certain organizations, while others will have unique needs the average person wouldn’t require. Do your research and make a list of every organization you need to contact, marking them off as you complete your business with them. Also, in some cases, the funeral home may have notified some of the government agencies on your behalf, so consult with the funeral director to determine which agencies have already been notified.
Government, Finance, and Insurance
After the initial round of contacting family, friends, and employers, the three biggest categories that you need to worry about in terms of organizations to contact are government agencies, financial services, and insurance companies. These are the groups that need to be of the highest priority, as not contacting them can lead to serious financial or legal consequences.
Some of the most important organizations to contact include:
- Social Security Administration, 800-772-1213
- State Department of Motor Vehicles
- Veteran’s Administration (for former military service)
- Defense Finance and Accounting Service, 800-269-5170 (for military service retirees receiving benefits)
- Office of Personnel Management, 888-767-6738 (for retired/former federal civil service employees).
- U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service, 800-375-5283 (for non-U.S. citizens)
- Credit unions
- Savings and loan associations
- Credit card companies
- Merchant card companies
- Mortgage companies and lenders
- Financial planners
Insurance & Annuity Companies
- Life insurers
- Annuity companies
- Health, medical, and dental insurers
- Disability insurers
- Automotive insurers
- Mutual benefit companies
Credit Reporting Agencies
Along with the usual financial, government, and insurance organizations, you should also contact the three big national credit reporting agencies: Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion.
- Experian, 888-397-3742, P.O. Box 9701, Allen, Texas 75013.
- Equifax, 800-525-6285, P.O. Box 105069, Atlanta, Georgia 30348.
- TransUnion, 800-680-7289, P.O. Box 6790, Fullerton, California 92834.
You should notify them about the death, instructing them to list all accounts as: “Closed. Account Holder is Deceased.” Each organization should have a sample notification letter available for your convenience. You can also request a credit report to obtain a list of all creditors and to review recent credit activities, which can help identify some organizations you might have missed.
Other Professional Associations
Another important thing to consider is whether your loved one belonged to any clubs or professional groups. This can range from union memberships to an account at a video rental store. Some potential things to look into include:
- Trade organizations
- Health or athletic clubs
- Automobile clubs
- Video rental stores
- Public libraries
- Alumni clubs
- Veterans’ organizations
- Rotary Club
Wrapping Things Up
If you want to tie up any loose ends and prevent potential identity theft, you might want to close your loved one’s email accounts. It also couldn’t hurt to shut down their social media accounts, but some prefer to have them “memorialized” instead, where you contact the company and have the page repurposed as a spot for friends and family to reminisce. Either way, you want to make sure that their old accounts aren’t available to be hijacked by potential cybercriminals.
Last, but not least, for a fee of $1.00, you can list your descendant’s name on the Deceased Do Not Contact List, which is maintained by the Direct Marketing Association. All members of the Direct Marketing
Association will delete the decedent’s name from their mailing lists once the name is posted. You can register their name at the DMA’s website as well (register at www.ims-dm.com/cgi/ddnc).
About the author
Founder/Attorney, CCSK Law
I create customized solutions for families to address their planning needs.
I provide plans clients understand. Also, they make sure they know when to use them, and do so affordably. I love the opportunity to break through the legal jargon to clarify issues. We find success when we work through a person’s situation and put the law to work for them.