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When loved ones pass away, protecting them from financial fraud may be the furthest thing from our minds. Unfortunately, in this age of identity theft and other fraudulent crimes, it’s important to get a handle on your deceased loved one’s financial affairs and protect their financial information even after they’re gone. Here are a few tips:
Don’t reveal too much in an obituary
Of course you want to honor your loved one’s life, but divulging too many specific details about them can be risky. Some criminals comb death notices for tidbits of information they can use to establish credit in the dearly departed’s name. Avoid giving out such detailed information as your family member’s middle name or their mother’s maiden name, and don’t include their specific birth date, occupation, or previous address(es) in the write-up.
Notify the three credit reporting agencies
The surviving spouse, the executor, or someone formally representing the deceased individual should write a letter directly to Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax to report the death and to request that the deceased family member’s credit file be flagged so that no further credit will be issued. In the letter, the representative should include his or her contact information, as well as the deceased’s name, Social Security number, last address, and dates of birth and death. Mail the letter along with a copy of the death certificate and proof of legal representation by certified mail.
Notify the deceased’s bank
Generally, you can access the funds in a deceased person’s deposit account only if you have joint ownership of the account with the deceased or if you’ve been appointed legal representative, such as executor or administrator, of your loved one’s estate. However, Massachusetts general law stipulates that if the funds in the account are less than $10,000, and an executor or administrator has not come forward within 30 days of the accountholder’s death, the bank may then disburse the funds to the surviving spouse or, if none exists, to the deceased’s next of kin, provided he or she presents the death certificate, primary identification, and the account’s passbook or other instrument, if any. Keep in mind that it’s important to act reasonably quickly, because banks are required to turn over the funds in accounts that have been inactive for more than three years to the unclaimed property division within the treasurer’s office of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
If the deceased was the borrower on a loan, then any surviving co-borrower would be fully responsible for the loan until it’s repaid. While payments remain due in full on the original due date, Millbury Savings will generally work with surviving borrowers on a case-by-case basis in order to make reasonable accommodations that might assist them through this process. If no co-borrower exists, then the bank will contact a spouse or next of kin to determine if an executor of the estate has been named, and to see how the debt may be repaid out of the estate.
While losing a loved one is extremely difficult, taking these precautionary steps can make a difference in protecting your family member’s good name and legacy.