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Alive or Deceased, You Still Need Proof of Your Identity

Alive or Deceased, You Still Need Proof of Your Identity

Many funeral professionals, and the executors/administrators they assist, have discovered that finding or securing acceptable forms of identification for a deceased can be very difficult.  Many seniors don’t replace their driver’s license with another government-issued photo ID card when they stop driving.  Some people die without any acceptable form of ID and many executors are surviving spouses who also don’t have government issued ID.  When settling an estate, many organizations require two forms of identification for both the executor and the deceased.

Millions of North Americans have no government ID for a variety of reasons.  Many seniors don’t have birth certificates because the process of issuing them was inconsistent at best when they were born.  Many were also issued with incorrect names that don’t match other documentation, making them invalid.  Most common is not having a driver’s licence.  Young people, seniors, the impoverished and even rural inhabitants often don’t have a driver’s licence, yet, it is the form of government ID that is most often used to prove identity or secure other forms of government-issued ID. This sets up at Catch 22­–if you don’t have government-issued ID, you can’t get government-issued ID.

Consider the case of Ethel Frank.  She is 84 and never had a birth certificate.  She does not drive or have a passport, nor has she ever applied for any other form of government ID. For years she used her baptismal certificate to prove her identity, but where she lives, that is no longer acceptable.  She can no longer open a bank account, apply for a loan or even vote.  And when Ethel passes away, it will be extremely difficult to settle her estate without acceptable proof of her identity.

The situation becomes even more complicated when you consider that an executor also has to be able to prove their identity to the satisfaction of many entities.  Banks, credit card companies, investment firms and government agencies can all demand government-issued ID from executors.  Even Facebook will demand that an executor prove their identity (and provide a copy of the will and death certificate) before they can delete, memorialize or move the Facebook page of a deceased.  If the executor is like Ethel, and has no acceptable ID, settling the estate is going to be immensely difficult.

In North America, both provinces and states offer Photo Identification Cards that act as valid forms of identification in virtually every instance.  However, for many government agencies at least two forms of valid ID are required to perform various functions.  What is deemed acceptable ID varies by country and region but in general, the following are some of the accepted forms of ID:

  • Driver’s License
  • Passport
  • Military ID card
  • Government-issued photo ID card
  • Health Card (Canada)
  • Citizenship card
  • Permanent resident card/Green card
  • Certificate of Indian Status/Indian Affairs Tribal Card
  • Old Age Security/Social Security card

There are many other acceptable forms of identification depending on the jurisdiction.

To get more information on U.S. documentation go to:


For Canadian citizens go to:


Funeral professionals are in a unique position to help people avoid the ID issue.  They develop generational relationships with their client families and interact with family members at various ages.  They can advise the children of seniors to ensure their parents have valid ID in their later years.  They can advise pre-arranged clients to secure government-issued ID if they don’t have such.  They can warn executors of the potential challenges of not having acceptable ID themselves.  Funeral directors engage with their clients at times, and on issues, of great consequence and have the ability to provide valuable information and resources.

The issues surrounding proving one’s identity is just one of many addressed in products like In Case of Emergency, from INEX.  It is a preparedness tool that helps families collect all of their critical documents in one place and it provides information on the kinds of documentation that are needed for a variety of situations.  The same is true of Closing Affairs, INEX’s tool for executors/administrators that provides simple but comprehensive direction for successfully closing an estate.  Both can be investigated at inexinc.com.

February 25, 2020