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Reporting death to credit bureaus: A step-by-step guide

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    • When a person dies, their credit card accounts and credit file do not automatically get closed.
    • A friend, family member or someone associated with the accounts will need to help report the death to the credit bureaus.
    • Reporting the death to the credit bureaus can help prevent possible fraud or identity theft.

    The last thing you want to be thinking about when a relative or loved one dies is what happens to their credit file. However, closing a credit file is one of the pieces of paperwork that unfortunately accompanies losing a loved one. Below, let’s review what happens to a credit file when a person dies and how to report this information to the credit bureaus.

    What happens to a credit file after death?

    After a person dies, their credit file will need to be closed since it does not happen automatically. Someone (usually a relative, loved one, friend or an individual associated with the credit card accounts) needs to report the death to the three main credit bureaus—Experian™, Equifax® and TransUnion®. Lenders also need to be notified, but the fate of the accounts depends on several other factors.

    Why should you report death to the credit bureaus?

    The following are some important reasons why you should report death to the credit bureaus.


    Reporting death to the credit bureaus can help prevent the possibility of identity theft. Sometimes a bad actor may take advantage of the situation and begin using the deceased’s credit cards if the account was not properly closed, or steal their identity, such as their Social Security number (SSN).

    The credit bureau might add a "deceased indicator" to your relative's credit file. This will help prevent anyone from getting approved a new line of credit account with the deceased's identity since the potential new lender will see the ribbon/label and will know that the application is the result of identity theft.

    You’re personally associated with the accounts

    It’s also important to report the death if the person you are reporting is someone you shared accounts with (for example, maybe you were an authorized user on their credit card). After reporting the death to the credit bureaus, you may want to request a fresh credit report and review the document for accuracy.

    Steps of reporting a death to credit bureaus

    Considering the death of a loved one is typically accompanied by stress, we've provided a step-by-step approach to make the process of reporting their death to the credit bureaus straightforward and stress-free.

    1. Request a copy of the death certificate

    Check with your state’s specific rules around obtaining records such as death certificates. If possible, request the death certificate from your local vital records office and contact them via phone or email. To look for your state-specific office, visit the list on the National Center for Health Statistics.

    If the person in question died abroad, discuss the situation with a U.S. embassy or consulate to file a Consular Report of Death Abroad (CRDA). This will help you obtain records to show proof of death to the bureaus.

    2. Contact credit bureaus to freeze credit report

    You can call each of the bureaus directly or reach them through their website. Be prepared to provide important information about the deceased to help update the credit file, including, but not limited to:

    • Full name
    • SSN
    • Date of birth
    • Date of death

    3. Provide death certificate to main credit bureaus

    Provide copies of the death certificate or CRDA to each of the bureaus to show proof of death. You may even do so online. This allows the bureaus to update the portfolio and flag the accounts, which may also prevent possible identity theft should someone try to steal credit card information or SSN.

    4. Obtain the most recent credit report

    The next time you receive your credit report, review the information to make sure it is up to date.

    5. Pay off remaining balances

    If you are responsible for paying off the remaining balances or debts, it’s important to do this promptly to avoid collections or further consequences that can hurt your credit.

    You will need to review the terms of your relative’s will and estate to see how the funds should be handled. This process can feel overwhelming, so you may want to consider working with a financial advisor or legal aid.

    In conclusion

    Losing a loved one or relative is a complicated, emotional time. It may feel difficult to tend to financial matters, such as reporting the death to the credit bureaus, but it’s important to address these concerns early on to help reduce the possibility of identity theft or fraud. This is especially true if you are associated with the account and are looking to avoid any negative financial consequences yourself.

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