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What to do when a loved one passes away

Dealing with the death of a loved one is made even more difficult when navigating how to handle their financial affairs and prevent scammers from stealing their identity.  Here is what to do when a loved one passes away and you need to settle their finances. 

  1. Obtain a death certificate. This is necessary for filing claims, closing certain accounts. The funeral director can usually help you obtain this and you can also contact the office of vital statistics where the death occurred. 
  2. Begin the probate process. Probate the process by which a will is processed. If they had a will that clearly names an executor, that person will need to file the will with the local probate court. If your loved one passed without a will, the probate court will appoint someone to serve as executor, usually next of kin.  To learn more about the probate process, take a look at this article from Forbes: https://www.forbes.com/advisor/legal/estate-law/what-is-probate/
  3. Contact the financial institutions where your loved one had accounts. Financial institutions, like the credit union, can help you determine who is the account beneficiary.  You will need the death certificate for this step. 
  4. Contact insurance companies and file the required claim forms to receive any life insurance benefit. Don’t overlook canceling other insurance policies–auto, life, rental, etc. You will need the death certificate for this step as well. 
  5. Notify appropriate government agencies. This usually includes Social Security, Medicare and Veterans Affairs. Spouses and family members may be eligible for survivors benefits, be sure to ask when filing a claim.  
  6. To prevent a scammer from stealing your late loved one’s identity, contact the three credit reporting bureaus (TransUnion, Equifax and Experian) to report their passing. Once you notify them, plan to check your loved ones credit report periodically to make sure no one is opening fraudulent accounts in their name. 
  7. Notify utility companies. 
  8. Inform the DMV and cancel your loved one’s driver’s license and license plates. You will need the car registration for this step.

For more information, check out these articles from Northwest Mutual and AARP about the steps to take when a loved one passes.