Credit accounts and debts may be the last things on your mind when a family member dies. But it’s important to think about these financial matters and know the proper steps to take so you don’t later find yourself untangling a mess of open accounts-or worse, fraud.
When a family member dies, what I do about his or her credit accounts?
You may need to pull a copy of the deceased’s credit report to see all the credit grantors and open accounts on it. Once you have that information, you can contact the credit grantors to close out accounts and report the tradelines as “deceased.” You may be required to show proof of power of attorney and a death certificate.
When you order death certificates, you may want to order 30 to 50 copies, just so you have enough to send later.
How do I pull a copy of my deceased family member’s credit report?
You may contact the credit-reporting agency and request a copy of the deceased’s credit file. You will be required to present a valid power of attorney or a letter of testamentary, which is a document provided by the probate court once a will is filed and the estate is in probate status.
Do I need to contact all of my family member’s creditors to close accounts?
Yes, contacting creditors to close out accounts and, more important, have the accounts reported as “deceased” is a wise decision to prevent misuse or fraud.
How is my deceased family member’s credit reported?
If you provide all of the reporting credit grantors with a copy of the family member’s death certificate, they will update their tradeline as “deceased.”
Will my deceased family member’s credit history be reported on my credit report?
No, your family member’s credit report doesn’t automatically show up on your credit report. If you have existing joint trades with the deceased, they will continue to be reported on your credit file until the debt is paid.
What scams or fraud issues do I need to watch out for after a family member dies?
The scams we most often see after the death of a family member involve stealing and misusing Social Security numbers to gain access to credit. In terms of fraud, misuse of the deceased’s existing open lines of credit can take time and be costly to discover and fix. To prevent such occurrences, you have several options:
- Notify the credit-reporting agency of the death.
- Place a security freeze on the account.
- Place an Automatic Fraud Alert on the account.
I have the same name as my deceased family member. How do I make sure I’m not closing my accounts?
Before you call creditors, make sure you have all of the pertinent account numbers on hand.
What information do I need to provide to credit-reporting agencies and creditors? And what information should I NOT give out, to avoid scams or fraud?
Credit-reporting agencies and creditors will ask for personal information to verify your identity, such as your name, Social Security number, address, and account numbers. You should always be cautious about giving out personal information for identification purposes. When you call an agency or a creditor, confirm the name and role of the person you’re speaking with. Your Social Security number is a unique identifier and should be guarded to prevent fraudulent use by others to gain access to credit-a time-intensive and challenging issue to correct.
Here’s a good rule of thumb: If you call the creditor or credit-reporting agency, you’ll need to provide your account number and/or verify your personal identity in order to access your account or credit file. But if the creditor contacts you, you should not be required to provide personal identification information, as that information should already be on file.
Diane Moogalian is vice president of operations for Equifax Personal Information Solutions. Prior to joining Equifax in 2007, Diane held several strategic roles with leading financial services companies.
The information contained in this blog post is designed to generally educate and inform visitors to the Equifax Finance Blog. The blog posts do not give, and should not be assumed to provide, personalized tax, investment, real estate, legal, retirement, credit, personal financial, or other professional advice. Before making any financial decision, you should always consult with the appropriate professionals who can explain your options, rights, and legal responsibilities, and advise you on any tax, legal, credit, or business implications that may result from those decisions. The views and opinions expressed by the authors of blog posts are their own views and may not be the views or opinions of Equifax, Inc. and/or its affiliates.