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What to do when a credit card holder passes away

How to close a credit card when someone dies
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Tip: When managing the finances of a loved one who's passed away, it's important to start the process quickly to minimize the risk of fraud or identity theft.

Step 2: Notify financial institutions

Using the credit report as your guide, contact all banks and credit card companies at which the deceased had an open account and close those accounts as quickly as possible. You will need to provide a certified copy of the death certificate to close the account.

Step 3: Figure out who is legally responsible for any credit card debt

If your loved one died with outstanding debts, untangling who is legally responsible for the credit card debt can be tricky.

Credit card debt doesn't disappear when the credit card holder passes away. If the account was jointly held with a spouse or someone else co-signed the credit application, that person will be 100% responsible for the debt.

If the debt is in the deceased's name alone, a surviving spouse may still be responsible for the debt if they live in one of the community property states4: Arizona, California, Idaho, Louisiana, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Washington, Wisconsin, and Alaska (if a special agreement is signed). Different states have different rules for dealing with the debt of a spouse, so it's a good idea to talk to an attorney.

Step 4: Follow up

After closing credit card accounts and notifying the credit bureaus, follow up to ensure the accounts were closed and no fraudulent accounts have been opened. Ask for written confirmation and file it with other documentation for the estate.

Facing the death of a loved one is a daunting journey. Knowing how to handle their financial affairs can help ensure you don't have to deal with fraud or identity theft during an already difficult time.

If one of the other financial affairs you need to deal with is your loved one's bank accounts, check out this article on how to close a bank account when a loved one dies.

Important Disclosure Information

This content is general in nature and does not constitute legal, tax, accounting, financial or investment advice. You are encouraged to consult with competent legal, tax, accounting, financial or investment professionals based on your specific circumstances. We do not make any warranties as to accuracy or completeness of this information, do not endorse any third-party companies, products, or services described here, and take no liability for your use of this information.

  1. Experian, “How to Obtain a Deceased Person's Credit Report," April 9, 2018, https://www.experian.com/blogs/ask-experian/executor-of-estate-can-obtain-deceaseds-credit-report/, accessed May 14, 2019. Back
  2. Equifax, “How to I obtain a credit report for a deceased person?" https://help.equifax.com/s/article/How-do-I-obtain-a-credit-report-for-a-deceased-person, accessed May 14, 2019. Back
  3. TransUnion, “Reporting a Death of a Loved One to TransUnion," April 5, 2019, https://www.transunion.com/blog/credit-advice/reporting-a-death-to-tu, accessed May 14, 2019. Back
  4. CFPB, “Can I be responsible to pay off the debts of my deceased spouse?" October 25, 2017, https://www.consumerfinance.gov/ask-cfpb/am-i-responsible-to-pay-off-the-debts-of-my-deceased-spouse-en-1467/, accessed May 14, 2019. Back