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 notify credit bureaus and close credit accounts if necessary. 

When someone passes away, the deceased's credit reports aren’t closed automatically. However, once the two nationwide credit bureaus – Equifax and TransUnion – are notified someone has died, the corresponding credit reports are sealed and a death notice is placed on them.

That notification can happen in several ways: from estate executors or court-appointed designees; from the deceased’s lenders and creditors; or from funeral homes who offer it as a service. Estate executors or court-appointed designees are encouraged to contact  Equifax and TransUnion 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:

Credit Step 1.  Contact the two nationwide 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. If someone attempts to use the deceased person's information to apply for credit, the notice should be displayed informing the creditor that 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 by credit bureau, and may depend on your relationship with the deceased -- whether he or she is a parent or spouse, for instance.  

Required information may include:

  • The person’s legal name
  • The person’s Social Insurance Number
  • The person’s date of birth and date of death
  • A copy of the death certificate
  • Your full name
  • Your address (to send confirmation of death notice placement)

If you are also requesting a copy of the person's Equifax credit report, you will need a copy of your government-issued ID, such as your driver's licence. Call Equifax Customer Care at (800) 465-7166 to find out more about required documents.

Credit Step 2. Submit the required information to Equifax and TransUnion. Consider making copies of everything you send and sending the documents via certified mail.

Credit Step 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 two nationwide bureaus, since not all lenders and creditors report to both.

You may need to contact lenders and creditors to notify them that 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 account holders has died. 

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