Looking for your loved one’s accounts

4 min read

Where to look for accounts

  • Start by compiling a list of accounts you know they had and ones you think they might have.

  • Think about what their interests were and how they spent their time and money.

  • Check both email and snail mail for receipts and statements.

  • If they had a lawyer or an accountant, be sure to talk to them.

Nothing about losing someone close to you is easy, but all of the logistical errands that need to get done can feel especially overwhelming. These days, most people have dozens of online accounts, memberships, and subscriptions, which must all be dealt with after they pass away. Most of these accounts will need to be closed or deactivated unless you decide to transfer them or take them over. And a few will have to be dealt with as soon as possible, not least to avoid identity fraud or theft. 

Of course, most of us don’t know exactly which accounts our loved ones had. After you’ve closed the accounts and canceled the memberships that you knew about or were able to find easily, you may need to do some investigative work. This might feel like a daunting task, but with a little organization and planning, it shouldn’t be too complicated. 

Start by taking out a pen and paper and making a list of accounts, subscription services, etc. that you suspect your loved one had. If you’re unsure where to begin, break down your list into categories: financial accounts, insurance, utilities, online or print subscriptions, memberships, and miscellaneous. Create your own list, or there are many checklists available for free online.

It is often a good idea to think about your loved one’s life, interests, activities, and hobbies, as a way to start building this list. How did they spend their time? What was important to them? How did they prefer to communicate with family and friends? These will help you zero in on some of the kinds of memberships they may have signed up for and subscriptions that would have interested them.

Once you have an idea of what kinds of accounts you are looking for you can start to locate them. If you have access to your loved one’s email account, then that is the best place to begin your search. Most subscription services send regular reminders or receipts via email. Many will appear in your loved one’s inbox––usually recurring subscription services, like newspapers, magazines, grocery deliveries, meal services, and the like—and these can easily be canceled using your loved one’s email. Simply click “forgot password” to reset the password and gain access to any of these online accounts, and there will likely be a straightforward way to unsubscribe from the service. If not, contact customer service and inform them of your situation. Canceling these subscriptions will prevent any unnecessary charges from being incurred. 

Before you can start closing accounts, you will need to make sure that you have multiple copies of your loved one’s death certificate. It’s a good idea to have both official stamped copies and a digital scan on hand; many institutions will require one or the other for you to close an account. 

To start building a list of accounts, think about your loved one’s life, interests, activities, and hobbies.

Monitor your loved one’s mail for bills or other recurring notifications from any accounts or memberships. If their house is not currently occupied, it’s generally a good idea to have their mail forwarded to your home or someone else’s in the family to avoid mail piling up there. The statements, receipts, or other mailings from organizations should have both your loved one’s account number and a phone number or email address for customer service on them, which should make it easy to cancel them all.

If you have access to your loved one’s bank account(s) or monthly bank statements, then you will be able to see charges from all of the accounts, memberships, and subscription services that your loved one used. Once you write down all the names of these accounts, you can call their customer service and explain that you would like to close the account on behalf of your loved one. Be prepared, again, to provide them with a copy of the death certificate. This is a fairly straightforward process for most subscription services and social media accounts, and these companies will most likely be willing to work with you in this difficult and painful situation. 

If you cannot gain access to any of the above information, try to schedule a meeting with your loved one’s accountant or lawyer. While they probably would not have been privy to all of your loved one’s subscriptions and accounts like Netflix or Amazon Prime, they will know about the most important ones: bank accounts, insurance, credit unions, brokerage accounts, and the like. They will likely not have access to these accounts or be able to grant you access, but they can alert you to accounts you may not have known about so that you can go about closing or transferring them all. 

In the end, if you haven’t found every single one, it is likely not going to be an issue. You have almost certainly canceled their credit cards and bank accounts, which means that any recurring payments will have been canceled as well. If the accounts aren't automatically closed when payment stops, then when the organization in question sends a letter or starts making phone calls, you'll find out about that unknown account and close it down as well.

Locating all of your loved one’s accounts is a big task, both logistically and emotionally, but it’s also a very straightforward one. Enlist the help of family members and close friends, and remember to take a break when you need it. With a little organization and a bit of sleuthing, you should be able to take care of it without much difficulty, so you can get back to the more important parts of remembering your loved one.

You may be eligible for free bereavement support. Empathy can help with everything from funeral planning to estate administration, with step-by-step guidance and real-time expert support. Many people get free premium access to Empathy as a benefit with their life insurance claim. We partner with New York Life, Guardian Life Insurance Company, Bestow, Lemonade, and other leading carriers. When you make your life insurance claim, talk to your representative about whether Empathy is a benefit they offer.