What Happens To Your Credit Report When You Die?

The topic of this article comes across almost like a stupid question.  What happens to your credit report when you die?  This guy on the left came to visit so who cares?  You’re dead and I’m sure you’ve long since stopped concerning yourself with your credit report in lieu of more important items. The issue here has more to do with what your family members need to be aware of and do regarding your credit when you pass away.

Everything begins with the family notifying creditors, financial institutions, the Social Security Administration, and the credit bureaus that one of their relatives is now deceased. This guarantees that all parties have been informed.  It is important to inform these companies as soon as possible to help prevent fraud.  Unfortunately, there are some fraudsters that read death notices just for information that can be used to steal your relative’s identity.

When creditors are notified of your relative’s death this information is reported by them to the credit bureaus and the account is coded as belonging to a deceased person.  Only their particular account, such as a credit card, is coded as deceased, not the entire credit report.  If the account is shared with another person jointly or as an authorized user, the deceased indicator may also be reflected on their accounts. The joint account is usually closed by the creditor and the other party will need to apply for the account under their own name.

At this point the deceased relative’s credit report will no longer be scoreable.  A credit report with a deceased indicator is cannot be scored. This helps to ensure that no new lender will extend credit in their name as a credit score is almost always required.

The Social Security Administration adds the Social Security Number of the deceased individual to their database as belonging to a deceased person. This database is a component of many fraud detection databases including those used by the credit bureaus.  The credit bureaus place an indicator or flag on the credit report that indicates that this Social Security Number belongs to a deceased person. This flag is on the entire credit report, not just an account.

To make sure the three credit bureaus have received updates on your relative from the Social Security Administration and from the creditors, you should also contact the bureaus directly.  To have them place a death notice on your relative’s credit report, send a letter via certified mail with return receipt requested to each bureau.  In the letter you should include the decedent’s full name, Social Security Number, address, date of birth, date of death, and enclose a copy of the death certificate. Send the letter to each bureau at the following addresses:

  • Equifax,  P.O. Box 105069,  Atlanta, GA 30348, 1-800-658-111
  • Experian,  P.O. Box 9530 , Allen, TX 75013 , 1-888-397-3742
  • TransUnion,  P.O. Box 6790,  Fullerton, CA 92834 , 1-800-888-4213

The credit report of your relative is not likely to be deleted but remains to prevent fraudulent accounts from being opened using your relative’s name and Social Security Number. You should also place a credit freeze on the reports, if the bureaus allow you to do so, to prevent any access to your relative’s credit reports.

JRU on 60 Mins SetCredit Reporting Expert, John Ulzheimer, is the President of Consumer Education at SmartCredit.com, the credit blogger for Mint.com, founder of www.creditexpertwitness.com and a Contributor for the National Foundation for Credit Counseling.  He is an expert on credit reporting, credit scoring and identity theft. Formerly of FICO, Equifax and Credit.com, John is the only recognized credit expert who actually comes from the credit industry.  You can follow John on Twitter here.

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