A to-do list to protect the identity of a loved one who passed away

Unfortunately, identity theft is rampant and it doesn’t only involve the living.

1. Contact Social Security and inform them of the death. Often the funeral home or a hospital will do it for you, but double check it to be on the safe side.

2. Obtain letters testamentary in the local surrogate’s court. This appointment will be done either based on the Will or, if there is no valid Will, on the rules of intestacy. A qualified probate attorney will help guide you in this process.

3. Contact the 3 credit bureaus to inform them of death and put a freeze on the decedent’s credit.

4. Contact all financial institutions (banks, brokerage firms, pension companies, life insurance companies, and retirement accounts) to ensure that the money from these accounts is distributed properly (either to the listed beneficiaries or to the estate).

5. Contact credit card companies, utility providers (phone, gas, cable, etc), and close all accounts.  Have the estate pay any outstanding bills.

6. File a final income tax return for the decedent. The return should be marked “deceased”.

7. Transfer the ownership of any real estate held by the decedent, based on either provisions of the Will or intestacy rules.