Legal Blog

The Weekly Scenario: Protecting Against Identity Theft

Q: My mother passed away a few weeks ago, what do I do with credit cards in my mother’s name?

Answer: In this day in age of identity theft, it is essential that all credit cards, PayPal and other electronic accounts be closed as soon as possible after the death of the account holder (I believe PayPal requires a letter and death certificate to close the account). Identity thieves have been known to hack customer data sites of large retailers and cross referencing them with newspaper obituaries to find names of customers who have recently died). They can then use the credit card accounts to make online purchases without anyone learning about the charges until well after the goods have been delivered. The fraud alert function might then be trying to alert someone who is no longer around to take the call! Credit cards, PayPal, etc. should be closed by calling them and asking for instructions, including the necessary documentation.

Comment: Passwords and other types of digital information should be made available to your surviving family members. A death ‘memo’ of sorts may be written to accompany the estate documents. It will make your survivors lives easier if this type of information (passwords, PINs, etc.) can be accessed readily after death if necessary.


As always, if you have any questions or would like to learn more, please contact me at or 301-575-0313.


Steve Shane Casual SmallSteve Shane provides strategic counseling to clients in need of estate administration, charitable giving and business continuity planning while minimizing estate, gift, and generation-skipping transfer tax exposure. He offers legal guidance to clients on asset protection and the proper disposition of assets in accordance with the client’s objectives, while employing tax planning techniques such as the use of irrevocable trusts, life insurance planning, lifetime gifts and charitable trust. He is also experienced with drafting documents for business planning, the incorporation and application for exemption for Private Foundations and the administration of decedents’ estates.

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