Connect to the information you need in order to make end-of-life choices.
When a family member dies, it may seem like the list of things that must be taken care of is endless. It isn't just funeral arrangements with which you need to be concerned. There are bills, credit cards, utilities, government programs and other items, all of which can add to the stress of dealing with a death. Then there is the constant worry about what you may have forgotten.
To help you deal with that stress, here is a list of items that need to be addressed and organization's that need to be notified after someone's death:
Different banks may have different ways of handling the closing of a decedent’s accounts, but most will want either a copy of or a certified death certificate. Bank accounts, however, should not be closed too quickly after a death. The funds in the account may be needed to pay outstanding bills or other debts. In the case of a spouse with a joint account, a death certificate will be needed to remove the decedent’s name.
Credit Reporting Agencies
Credit reporting agencies are notified of a person’s death in one of two ways: either through Social Security or by the executor of a decedent’s estate. To be sure that a lock is put on the decedent’s credit report file, it is wise to contact at least one credit reporting agency. That agency, in turn, will notify the other agencies. To report a death, you should have the decedent’s legal name, Social Security number and a copy of the death certificate (which includes date of birth, date of death and other relevant information). Marking a person’s credit reports as “deceased” prevents any efforts to get credit approved in their name, which deters identity theft.
Social Security Administration
The Social Security Administration will be notified of the death electronically through the filing of the death certificate. If a check has been mailed for the month in which a person died, it will need to be returned. If the decedent had direct deposit, the SSA will withdraw the funds electronically. Keep bank accounts open for at least 45 days to make sure the funds are returned. If you have any questions about this process, you can contact the administration directly (1-800-772-1213 for New Jersey).
Medicaid and Medicare
When the Social Security Administration is notified of a person’s death, that information is automatically passed on to Medicaid and Medicare.
If the decedent was still employed, make sure to contact their employer to find out about any death benefits, life insurance or retirement funds to which the decedent is entitled. The company’s human resources department should be able to give you the information on how to collect any of these funds. Make sure you have a copy of the death certificate when you call.
If the decedent was receiving a pension or had a retirement fund, contact the fund to alert them of the death. You should have the decedent’s Social Security number, identification number, date of birth and date of death, along with a death certificate if the fund needs it. If you are a spouse and eligible to receive continued benefits, the fund should be able to arrange survivor benefits.
Loans (Including Credit Cards)
Loan companies should be notified when the person responsible for the loan dies. Have copies of the death certificate available when reaching out to these agencies. Credit card companies must comply with the Credit Card Act of 2009, which mandates that credit card companies respond to requests for final bills in a timely fashion and forbids them from imposing late fees or finance charges during the administration process. Loans, whether secured or unsecured, should be paid out of the decedent’s estate. If the estate does not have sufficient funds to cover the debt, you may need to consult with an attorney to find out what responsibility you might have as next of kin.
After a person’s death, the various insurance companies with which the decedent had policies will all need to be notified. When reaching out to the companies, you should have copies of the death certificate and policy numbers. The next steps will most likely be company specific. If you are the executor, though, make sure you have a probate form in case the company requires it.
Even death does not exempt a person from paying taxes. Survivors will still need to gather up the deceased’s paperwork when it comes time to file taxes and make sure returns are filed. Talk to your accountant or tax preparer for guidance concerning what will be needed. Depending on when a person dies, you may have to wait nearly a year before filing their final tax return.
If you are the spouse of or lived in the same house as the decedent, call utilities companies, such as gas, telephone and electric, in order to get the accounts changed over to your name. In most cases, you will need a death certificate and proof of your residence in order to change the account over or to close the account. If the decedent lived alone and owned the home, do not have gas and electric turned off right away. You may need them to maintain the dwelling through probate. Once the will is probated and the residence is sold or rented, you can cancel utilities.
It is important to cancel subscriptions to newspapers and magazines, as well as gym and other club memberships. Often these subscriptions and memberships automatically withdraw renewal fees from checking accounts, and they will continue to do so until they are told to stop. You may need to monitor the decedent’s accounts for automatic withdrawals to find out what subscriptions and memberships they have. Call immediately to cancel before the account gets charged again.
State Motor Vehicle Commission
There are procedures to follow for surrendering a license after a person dies. The New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission recommends that a survivor send the license (or ID card), along with any renewal application and a copy of the death certificate, to:
New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission
Driver Management Correspondence Unit
P.O. Box 134
Trenton, NJ 08666-0134.
Board of Elections
When someone dies, their name should be removed from the rolls of eligible voters. In New Jersey, the registrar of vital statistics in each municipality is tasked with sending a list of recent decedents to the county Board of Elections. The names should then be removed. If you are still receiving sample ballots, contact your county board and ask to have the name removed from voter rolls. A list of contact numbers can be found here.
Social Media and Email
In order to either memorialize or close a decedent’s social media or email accounts, you will need to have a copy of a death certificate, the person’s name and date of birth. You may also need to prove your own identity. Once you have this information, follow the instructions found in this blog in order to manage these accounts.
Taking these steps will help provide some peace of mind that the decedent’s estate is not being charged for unneeded services, that you’ve minimized the risk for identity theft and that you’ve identified any potential money owed or payable to the estate.
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