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Things You Can Do When Someone Passes Away

How to Close Accounts and Cancel Benefits After Someone Dies

Losing a loved one can be overwhelming for you and your family. At such a difficult time, it can be hard to think about settling affairs. But taking care of the paperwork soon after the funeral can help protect your loved one’s estate from financial and identity theft.

Use this guide for contacting government agencies, companies, and organizations about your loved one’s death. Each may ask you for different information. You’ll need the person’s Social Security number and a photocopy or a certified copy of the death certificate to close or transfer accounts.

Governmental

  • Social Security and Medicare - When you’re making final arrangements for your loved one, you can give their Social Security number to the funeral director. They will submit the information to the Social Security Administration (SSA). This step stops future benefit payments. You’ll need to return any SSA payments that arrive after the person’s death. Mail the check back or contact the bank if the payment is by direct deposit. You can also contact SSA to find out about any survivor benefits.
  • IRS personal income tax filing - If the person died before filing their individual income tax return due in April, someone will have to do it for them. You may also need to file a final tax return for the year of their death in the next tax season. Learn how to file a deceased person’s tax return.
  •  U.S. Passport - To avoid identity theft, you can mail the person’s passport to the State Department along with a letter asking them to cancel it. Include a certified copy of the death certificate and let them know if you want the canceled passport sent back to you as a keepsake or destroyed.
  • Motor vehicles office - Contact the state motor vehicles office to cancel their records, return disabled parking placards, and find out about returning their license or ID card. If the person had a vehicle, ask about transferring the title to the appropriate person.
  • Social services and benefits programs - If the person was receiving SNAP (food stamps), TANF (welfare), or rental assistance, contact the state social services office to cancel benefit payments.
  • Property tax records - If the person owned a home, check with the town, city, or county tax office about the deed and any property taxes that are due.
  • Veterans benefits - In addition to contacting the VA about burial benefits and asking about survivor benefits, notify these other VA departments if the person was
  • Board of Elections - Contact the local BOE where the person lived to remove the person's name from the voter registration list to avoid voter fraud.

Financial

  • Credit reporting agencies - Send a letter with a certified copy of the death certificate to one of the three big credit reporting agencies. They will share the information with the other two agencies. Include the person’s name, address, and Social Security number and your name and contact information. Six to eight weeks after the funeral, ask for a credit report for the person to check for possible identity theft.
  • Bank - Check the person's bank for a signature card to find out who can access the account. Find out about checking and savings accounts, loans, bank credit cards, investments, and whether there is a safety deposit box. Also, check for any direct deposits. You may have to wait until after the estate is settled and all outstanding bills have been paid to close the account.
  • Automatic payments- Review the bank statement and credit cards for any autopay accounts. These could include mortgage, home equity loan, utilities, memberships, or student loans. You may need to call each company to cancel. Also, if you wait to stop any future auto payments, it may be difficult to get reimbursed for payments that went out after the person died.
  • Credit cards - If you are a spouse, the cards may be joint accounts. Call the companies and let them know that one of the cardholders has died. Otherwise, cancel all cards to stop anyone from using them in the future, and to stop any accumulating interest or recurring payments.
  • Life insurance - If the person was still employed, there may be a policy through work. Contact the human resource department to help you. Also ask about canceling other types of insurance the person may have had through work such as health, dental, or vision.  
  • Mortgage - A bank or lender may foreclose on the home if payments don’t continue. Contact the lender right away to let them know about the death, find out how to continue payments, and how to transfer the mortgage to an heir.
  • Pensions - Check for private and government plans at current or former workplaces. Also, contact investment or financial advisors.
  • Other Insurance Policies - There may be other plans such as pet or renter’s insurance. Check the cancellation clause and the bank statement for any auto payments.
  • Prescription Plan - Medicare Part D is the prescription plan that people sign up for separately. Check to see if SSA canceled the plan. Also, check with the drug store to stop any automatic refills. This prevents someone from fraudulently picking up any medications.

Utilities and Communications

  • Stop mail delivery and forward mail - Contact the local post office to redirect the person’s mail. This prevents an overflowing mailbox that would tip off thieves to an empty home. It also prevents identity thieves from stealing mail offering new credit cards.
  • Home utilities - If you are the spouse, call to transfer the account to your name. If you are selling the person’s home, you may want to keep gas, heating oil, or electric on during the process. Check the bank statement for auto payments you may have to cancel or transfer.
  • Cable/internet and cell/home phone - Depending on the provider, payments may be bundled into one bill. Call the provider to cancel or transfer the contract. You will need the person’s phone number and Social Security number.
  • Mobile apps - App subscriptions are usually paid by credit card. Contact customer support for the mobile device’s operating system app store. You may need the person’s email, password, and a certified copy of the death certificate.

Subscriptions, Memberships, and Groups

Look in the person’s wallet for any membership cards. Check their mail for renewals, and bank or credit card statements for recurring payments. In some cases, these organizations have a person’s credit card number. Canceling the account can help avoid any fraudulent use. You may or may not need a copy of the death certificate to cancel.

  • Magazines and newspapers - Call customer service to cancel online service or stop home delivery.
  • Entertainment accounts - Check for an online movie, sports, music, or gaming subscriptions.
  • Auto club or roadside assistance - Check inside the vehicle for any paperwork.
  • Warehouse clubs, buying services, meal kits, health clubs, airline or hotel memberships, monthly subscription boxes, or dating website memberships - If it’s a national company, call customer service. For internet club accounts, you may need the password to end the membership online.
  • Affinity groups including organizations for seniors, veterans, or local business owners - In some cases, these groups may want to plan a future memorial service.
  • Religious organization/house of worship - Check for any monthly offering or commitment payments from the checking account or credit card.
  • Charities - Check for any monthly or annual donation payments from the checking account or credit card.
  • Union dues - Labor organization dues are typically paid by payroll deduction. Speak to the HR department of the employer and ask who contacts the union.
  • Unclaimed money - There maybe money from a forgotten credit union account or unknown insurance policy. Contact companies to prevent fraud.

Here are some helpful tips as you move through this process:

  • As you’re making arrangements with the funeral director, consider ordering multiple certified copies of the death certificate. The cost varies by state. You’ll typically need certified copies for canceling government benefits and identification, for credit cards and bank or investment accounts, and for transferring real estate or vehicles. Utilities and other companies may just need a photocopy. In most cases, the funeral home provides this service only to immediate family members and the executor of the estate. If you need more certified copies later, contact your county or city.
  • Learn from the Federal Trade Commission what to do about the debts of a person who has died. Find out who is obligated to pay and what to do if debt collectors call.
  • Shred the person’s old credit or membership cards once you get a notification that the accounts were canceled.

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