Credit Steps to Take After a Relative's Death

After the death of a family member, credit and finances are likely not going to be top of mind. But if you’re handling the person’s estate, it’s important to know how to to notify credit bureaus and close his or her accounts. 

When someone passes away, his or her credit reports aren’t closed automatically. However, once the three major credit bureaus – Equifax, Experian and TransUnion – are notified someone has died, their credit reports are sealed and a death notice is placed on them.

That notification can happen one of two ways – from the executor of the person’s estate or from the Social Security Administration.  Estate executors or court-appointed designees, however, are encouraged to contact each of the three major credit bureaus so that the deceased’s credit report can be flagged, appropriately. 

Here are some steps you can take following the death of a loved one if you are the executor of the estate or other court-appointed designee:

1.   Contact the three major credit bureaus to find out what you need to do to notify them of someone's death and get a death notice placed on their credit reports.

A death notice flags a person's credit reports as "deceased - do not issue credit." If someone attempts to use the deceased person's information to apply for credit, the notice should be displayed informing the creditor the person is deceased.   

Find out what documents you will need to provide the credit bureaus with proof of the person's death, along with proof that you are the authorized designee. The required documents may vary, based on your relationship with the deceased -- whether he or she is a parent or spouse, for instance -- and based on the credit bureau. Learn more about required documents and contacting credit bureaus.

Required information may include:

  • The person’s legal name
  • The person’s Social Security number
  • The person’s date of birth and date of death
  • A copy of the death certificate
  • Copies of any required legal documents
  • Your full name
  • Your address (to send confirmation of death notice placement)

If you are also requesting a copy of the person's credit report, you will need a copy of a government-issued ID, such as a driver's license. 

2.   Submit the required documents to the credit bureaus. Consider making copies of everything you send and sending the documents via certified mail.

3.    Review the deceased person’s credit reports to understand what open accounts they have with creditors and lenders. It's a good idea to request copies of credit reports from each of the three major credit bureaus, since not all lenders and creditors report to all three.

You may need to contact lenders and creditors to notify them the person is deceased and the accounts need to be closed, even if the account has a zero balance. Lender and creditor contact information can be found on the credit reports. You may be required to provide a copy of the person's death certificate and other legal documents. A joint account may remain open even after one of the people has died.