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Credit Cards After Death

Faith & Finance

Christian talk radio with Rob West

April 4, 2022

When you lose your spouse, the last thing on your mind is credit cards, but they require action - and sooner rather than later. We’ll walk you through the process today on MoneyWise. You might be surprised to learn that there’s no automatic notice to credit card issuers when someone dies. It’s up to the surviving spouse or another family member to notify them and take steps to cancel the deceased’s credit cards. STEPS TO CANCEL LATE SPOUSE’S ACCOUNTS First, you need to take inventory of all your spouse’s open credit accounts. It’s possible you may have forgotten about one or more of them. As a surviving spouse, you can order the deceased credit reports from each of the three credit bureaus, Equifax, Transunion and Experian. Make a list of all the open credit accounts and any balances that may remain. You’ll need to know those amounts later. Once you have the credit reports and you have your list of open accounts, you can contact the credit bureaus and freeze the deceased’s credit. You’ll need to provide their name, Social Security number and a death certificate. That prevents anyone from getting those credit files and trying to open new accounts in your spouse’s name. You should also get several copies of the death certificate because some banks and card issuers will request them. Now you’re ready to contact any authorized users on the credit card. Usually, that would be a child or children. Alert them to stop using the card to avoid an awkward situation in the checkout line. That includes you, if you’re listed as an authorized user. It’s considered fraud for an authorized user to keep using a card after the cardholder dies. If a credit card still has a balance, that will be handled by the estate. If you’re only an authorized user on the account, in most cases you won’t be personally responsible for any remaining debt. The next step is to notify the card issuer of the death and have the account closed as soon as you can. You may be able to avoid interest and finance charges by acting quickly. Contact the card issuer and ask for the deceased accounts department. Request that the account be closed and ask what documentation you need to provide. They’ll walk you through the steps for canceling the account. Also, ask that any recurring charges, like subscriptions, be canceled. If the account has been hit with interest charges or late fees, ask to have them removed because of the death. Your phone call will usually get the job done, but it’s always a good idea to follow up with a letter or email, again requesting that the account be closed. Include the name of the deceased, dates of birth and death, the Social Security number, address and credit card account number, along with your contact information. You’re not personally responsible for your spouse’s credit card debt unless it’s a joint account. Remaining debt on a credit card should be paid off as part of the probate process, and creditors will petition the court to have that done. If the estate doesn’t have enough funds to pay off a credit card balance, the card issuer won’t get paid. However, as the surviving spouse, you may want to pay off a remaining balance. Proverbs 3: 27 reads, Do not' withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to do it. If you feel the Lord leading you to make good on your spouse’s credit card and you have the funds, by all means do it. LISTENER QUESTIONS On today’s program, Rob also answers listener questions: ●When closing multiple credit card accounts, which card should you close first? And should you wait a while between closing cards to protect your credit? ●How do you evaluate relatively conservative investment options ? ●What can you do to start digging out of a lot of debt? ●What’s the best way to start investing a little later in life? RESOURCES MENTIONED ●Betterment ●Wealthfront ●Schwab Intelligent Portfolios ●MoneyWise App

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