Being responsible for someone else’s financial accounts after they have passed away can be a stressful experience. It is possible to simplify at least one aspect of this process, namely the cancellation of credit cards, by following a series of fundamental steps. Begin by gathering multiple copies of the deceased’s death certificate, as well as any credit card statements that may have been left behind. Then, contact each of the three major credit bureaus and request that they place a credit freeze on the deceased’s account. At the end of the process, contact the credit card companies and follow their instructions on how to officially close the accounts.
Part 1 Getting Ready to Notify
1. Take immediate action to avoid further delay. When a cardholder passes away, the banks will not contact the family on their own initiative. If you wait to cancel the cards, it is possible that the account will be charged late fees or interest during the time that you are waiting to cancel the cards. It is possible that keeping the cards active will leave them more vulnerable to fraud and identity theft.
2. Obtain multiple copies of the death certificate from the funeral home. It is likely that you will need to send at least one copy to each of the credit card companies that the deceased was formally associated with. Before releasing credit report copies, the credit bureaus will also request official copies of the credit reports. Speaking with the funeral director will enable you to obtain additional copies of the death certificate.
3. Collect all of the cards from everyone, including those from authorised users. To obtain a list of all possible cardholders or users, use the account information included on the card’s statement or contact the card company directly. Then, contact these individuals directly and request that they provide you with the card. If you are confident in their ability to do so, you can also request that they simply destroy the card.
You should contact anyone who has the card numbers on file and ask them to destroy the documents and refrain from charging the account in the future if you are aware of it.
4. It’s important to understand that the account can remain active for joint users. If the account is in your name as well as the name of the deceased, the credit card will not need to be cancelled as a result of the death. You can simply assume responsibility for the card’s payment and maintenance. This also implies that you will be held liable for any debts incurred through the use of the card.
If, on the other hand, you are only an authorised user, the account will need to be terminated as a result.
5. If you are not a joint user of the cards, you should not use them for any reason. When a person passes away, their credit becomes ineligible for use the minute it occurs. It is technically credit card fraud, and you may be subject to legal consequences if you continue to charge items on the card after being charged. Even ‘necessary’ expenses, such as funeral expenses, should not be charged to these cards. Instead, consult with a lawyer or a funeral planner to determine how to pay for these expenses without using credit cards.
Part 2 Contacting the Credit Bureaus
1. Insist on the credit reporting agencies flagging the deceased’s credit account. Contact the three major credit bureaus (TransUnion, Experian, and Equifax) both by phone and by mail to express your dissatisfaction with their services. Inform them that the deceased’s credit account should be marked as “Deceased. Do Not Issue Credit.” In this way, identity fraud and others using the deceased’s credit to open credit cards or make purchases will be less likely to occur.
2. A copy of the deceased person’s credit report should be requested. Contact all three credit reporting agencies via email or phone to inform them of the situation. Inquire about the company’s policies on releasing consumer credit reports. Your position as financial executor or executrix of the deceased’s accounts will almost certainly be confirmed by faxing over proof of your status. Please keep in mind that, depending on the agency, it could take several weeks to receive these report duplicates.
3. Examine your credit report, making a note of any outstanding balances or open accounts. After you’ve received the reports, take a moment to review each one. Any accounts that are marked as closed or paid off should be ignored. Instead, draw a line through or circle the accounts that are still active and still have balances in them. These are the credit card companies that you will need to contact in order to resolve the situation.
4. For one year, keep track of all of the deceased’s financial correspondence. The simple act of cancelling all active credit accounts will not suffice in this situation. Request that the postal service forward all of the deceased’s mail to you in order to prevent identity fraud from occurring completely. Then, keep an eye out for financial notices in particular, as well as anything that might indicate that additional credit accounts have been established.
Part 3 Reaching Out to Credit Card Companies
1. Make direct contact with each credit card company. Contact each company by phone, using the customer service numbers that are listed on each credit statement. Inquire about being put in touch with a representative who is experienced in dealing with deceased accounts. After that, request that they close the account in question. You should also inquire as to where a copy of the death certificate will be required to be sent.
You should ask the card representative to look up your account information on their computer while you are talking with them. Any recurring charges should be stopped and cancelled as well if they are discovered.
This is also the time to request a refund for any late fees or charges that have been assessed. The majority of businesses will be happy to do so if the necessary documentation is provided.
2. Follow up with a formal letter to each of the credit card companies. Send a registered and certified letter requesting cancellation to the address listed on the back of your credit card bill. This is the address that will appear on your credit card billing statement. The following information should be included in your letter: the credit card account number, the deceased’s name, address, Social Security number, and date of birth (if applicable).
Keep in mind to include your full name and contact information as well, so that the company will know who to contact once the cancellation is complete.
3. Pay off any credit cards you may have. Check to see which credit cards still have balances on them and which ones do not. Then you should request that the credit card companies in question send you proof of a claim against the estate of the deceased. Once you have these documents, go through them and use the estate assets to pay off each debt in the order in which they were incurred, starting with the oldest and working your way up to the most recent.
Never use your personal funds to pay off estate debts unless you were listed as the financial responsible party for that particular credit card account in the estate documents.
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