There are so many social connections you will need to notify of the death of a loved one. Just think of it: credit card companies, banks, investment and insurance companies, health care providers…the list can feel endless. What should be your top priority?
That’s simple. While the order of notifications you make will depend on your personal situation, it's essential that you stick to the following notification process, and keeping good records of all notifications you make. That should be your #1 priority.
A 4-Step Notification Process
Initially make the contact by telephone.
Follow-up with written verification.
Mail all written verifications via registered mail, with signature confirmation required.
Retain copies of all notices that you send, with the related postal tracking/signature information attached.
For many of the government agencies and financial entities, you will need a certified copy of the death certificate, your loved one’s social security number, and, if you are the executor of the estate, a copy of the appointment form from the probate court.
All creditors should be notified promptly following a death. If there is to be a delay in meeting debts or installment payments, you may be able to file for extensions. Many creditors are sympathetic to these situations and are willing to grant your requests. If credit insurance or mortgage insurance policies were in force, purchases made on credit (vehicles, furniture, etc.) or the home mortgage may be paid off by the insurance. Ask your lending institution.
Also notify the major credit reporting agencies, including Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion. Instruct them to list all accounts as: “Closed. Account Holder is Deceased.” You may also request a credit report to obtain a list of all creditors and to review recent credit activities.
Social Security and other government agencies should be contacted. These agencies could also include the:
Veteran’s Administration, if your loved one served in the military.
Defense Finance and Accounting Service, if the deceased was a military service retiree receiving benefits.
Office of Personnel Management, if they were a retired or former federal civil service employee.
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service, if your loved one was not a U.S. citizen.
Department of Motor Vehicles, if decedent had a driver’s license or state I.D. card.
Clubs, associations, and social groups need to know. Did your loved one belong to any professional associations or unions? Even just your local video rental store should know, as should the public library. Here’s a check list for you:
Professional associations and unions
Health clubs and athletic clubs
Video rental stores
College Alumni clubs
Rotary, Kiwanis, Lions, Veterans’ organizations and clubs
All online accounts should be closed. While there are companies, such as Entrustet, Legacy Locker, and DataInherit, whose sole purpose is to help you keep track of all your digital “assets”, including your passwords and other log-in details, chances are your loved one didn’t subscribe to any of their services. However, if they did, you’re one step ahead of the game.
But if not, you might be faced with ferreting out your loved one’s many online accounts – and it could take some time. Here’s a brief overview of those digital realms you should monitor, and eventually close:
Online banking or investment portals
Dealing with the Flotsam and Jetsam Left Behind
No doubt you’ve heard the words flotsam and jetsam, usually used together. Flotsam is “part of the wreckage of a ship or its cargo as is found floating on the surface of the sea.” And jetsam is “the throwing of goods overboard,” or "goods thrown overboard to lighten the load of a distressed ship." Both terms used together usually refer to any floating waste material found in the sea, or they may simply mean “odds and ends.”
Without a doubt, when someone dies, they unintentionally leave behind “odds and ends” which need to be tended, retrieved, and managed by their loved ones. Unfortunately, very few of us are prepared for what is often a huge task. Our advice to you is simple. Take care of the important financial details first, and then work your way down to those that won’t truly impact your day-to-day welfare.
Should you need to speak with someone accustomed to helping out in these situations, please call us. Our Aftercare specialists can advise you – or refer you to an attorney who can take over tending to the flotsam and jetsam left behind.