When a beloved family member or close friend passes, taking care of their estate often corresponds with several stages of grief. And rarely is it an easy job. Not only are stress and emotions running high, but estates, even small ones, typically have a lot of paperwork to be sorted. It can be difficult to determine what needs to be kept, what should be given to another family member, and what can be shredded.
Estate Papers to Locate and Keep
Some of these will seem obvious, but we think it’s always good to have a list.
- Will (if it hasn’t already been located and processed)
- Birth, marriage, and divorce certificates
- Birth certificates and/or adoption papers for minor children, if any
- Social Security information
- Life insurance documents
- Other current insurance paperwork
- Mortgages and deeds
- Car titles
- Paperwork and contact information for any agency from which the deceased may have been receiving benefits—such as a pension, disability, etc.
- Account numbers for utilities and other accounts in the deceased’s name
- Any bills that still need to be paid
- Credit cards and statements
- Tax returns from the previous two years
- Any paperwork regarding investment accounts; IRAs, 401(k) plans, mutual funds, and the like
- The deceased’s most recent bank statements (including those for CDs and money-market accounts)
- Any manuals or instructions for items that may be sold or given away
- Paperwork or manuals for the home’s HVAC system and appliances, if applicable
- Diplomas, education records, military service records – these items may not be necessary for any official purpose, but family members often like to hold on to them
There may be many other records you need to keep, depending on the specific circumstances of the deceased.
Avoid Identify Theft After Death
Sadly, it has become increasingly necessary to guard against thieves desperate to steal the identity of deceased persons. This is why estate shredding is a critical component of the estate handling process.
Here are a few steps you can take to prevent identity theft of a loved one who has passed.
- Be cautious when writing the obituary. Unfortunately, thieves are known to scan obituaries to find birth dates, maiden names, addresses, and other information they can use.
- Don’t share information on social media. This is a tough one, as we’ve all become accustomed to sharing the meaningful events of our lives on Facebook and other sites. However, social media is another place where unscrupulous individuals try to glean information about people who have passed in order to gain access to their identities.
- Keep all personal papers, including death certificates, secure. Again, assume the worst—act as if identity thieves are lurking around every corner. Lock up any records or papers with the deceased’s Personally Identifiable Information (PII).
- Destroy any papers or records you don’t need to keep. Dumpsters can be treasure troves for identity thieves. Shred everything you aren’t holding on to.
Managing Estates Effectively: Go Easy on Yourself
If you find yourself getting overwhelmed by the responsibility of finalizing an estate, find someone to help. There are many agencies that specialize in this kind of assistance. And if you experience depression, grief, or other difficult emotions, take care of yourself and seek counseling—or, at the very least, find someone to talk to about your feelings.
If you have questions about the process of shredding estate papers, feel free to call TrueShred at 888-322-3218.
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