Protecting life insurance clients … after death?

You’ve handed over the cheque to the family and left them to grieve but that doesn’t mean the work as advisor is done – not by a longshot

You’ve handed over the cheque to the family and left them to grieve but that doesn’t mean the work as advisor is done – not by a longshot.

Identity theft is a real problem that touches everyone in society, including the deceased.

When your client dies and the beneficiary is paid out this doesn’t mean advisors can turn the page because there’s still much to do to protect the deceased’s identity from being stolen.

Anyone who’s been through the process of tying up the loose ends for a deceased relative knows how much needs to be done to make the death official. While funeral homes will provide some of these services such as sending death certificates to the appropriate federal and provincial government agencies, advisors can add value by ensuring all the necessary steps are taken to bring matters to a close.

A big one is the credit reporting agencies where a deceased person can remain alive, at least on paper, for up to six months.

In Canada, the death certificate can often be obtained from the funeral home handling the funeral.

Next up are banks, credit cards, and any other financial institutions where the deceased had relationships. Every client’s situation is obviously different but these entities need to be notified in order to prevent unnecessary activity on any of their accounts.

Another important recommendation to pass on to the family is about keeping details vague when issuing the obituary. We’ve all heard of the situation where someone is robbed while they’re attending their loved one’s funeral. In the case of identity theft, it’s important that addresses and other information that can be used to piece together someone’s identity are omitted.

"Information about the deceased is usually published in an obituary in a newspaper, so it's easy for thieves to gather and use," said Sonya Smith-Valentine, a lawyer specializing in recovering the effects of identity theft. "You should avoid putting the deceased's exact birth date and middle name in the obituary to make things harder for an identity thief."

Finally, it’s important that all financially sensitive materials left behind by the deceased be secured in a safe location that can’t easily be breached. These kinds of documents provide identity thieves with a good head start.

Advisors can help ensure this doesn’t happen.