The death of a family member or friend undoubtedly upends everyday life. Whether you or another individual has been appointed executor of the estate, it’s important to take a moment during this difficult time to prioritize credit-related issues. Follow these three steps for notifying the credit bureaus in the wake of a loved one’s death.
Step 1: Contact One Credit Bureau
Accounts listed on a person’s credit reports won’t fall off or be closed upon death, so the executor has to be proactive by notifying either Experian, Equifax or TransUnion. Once the credit bureau has been contacted and notified of the death, it will share the information with the other bureaus and flag the person’s credit reports with a death notice.
The death notice is a signal to creditors and lenders not to issue credit and helps to prohibit account fraud or identity theft.
Step 2: Follow Up and Send the Certificate
After contacting the credit bureau, send it the death certificate as well as the deceased’s legal name, date of birth, last address and social security number.
If you were married to the deceased, include your contact information and a copy of some form of personal identification, such as your driver’s license. If you weren’t married to the deceased, send a copy of your driver’s license along with a copy of the will or power of attorney document.
Step 3: Contact the Social Security Administration (SSA)
It’s important to contact the local SSA so it can also make note of the death in its files.
While the SSA will eventually contact the credit bureaus about the death, it may take months for the information to make its way through the system. By proactively contacting the credit bureau, you or the executor are taking an expedited approach to protecting the deceased’s credit accounts.
It’s also a prudent idea to contact all creditors and lenders that worked with the deceased, including credit card companies, insurers, banks and mortgage lenders to notify them of the death. You can request a copy of the deceased’s credit reports from the credit bureaus to see the full list of accounts.
Losing a loved one is a difficult trial that can be easily made worse by the added worry of identity theft or fraud. By contacting credit bureaus and creditors, you’re taking the smart path to safeguarding the deceased’s credit profile — and good name.