When someone dies, their survivors or the executor of the estate often have a lot of work to do. Common tasks include reaching out to friends and family, making funeral arrangements and contacting insurance companies, banks and other financial institutions. That’s just for starters.
With all these other tasks, notifying the three major credit bureaus about the death might feel like a low priority. But it’s a good idea to check this off your to-do list to secure the deceased’s credit report. And it’s important to continue using a credit monitoring service even after death.
What Happens to Someone’s Credit Report After They Die?
When someone dies, their credit reports won’t get updated until the credit bureaus are informed of the death. Typically, this happens in one of the following ways:
- The deceased’s creditors may notify the credit bureaus of the death when they submit new information to the bureaus. Of course, this can’t happen until the creditors themselves have already been notified.
- The Social Security Administration (SSA) sends a list of recent deaths to the credit bureaus. Typically, the funeral home or the executor of the estate notifies the SSA in the first place. This list only includes people who were receiving Social Security benefits.
- A surviving spouse or the executor of the estate can notify the credit bureau themselves.
When the credit bureaus are informed of the death, they update the person’s credit file to indicate that they have died. They won’t close the credit report right away because leaving it open helps prevent identity theft. If someone tries to open a fraudulent account in the deceased’s name, a quick credit check reveals that the real person has died, and the application is a fake.
The deceased’s name also can be removed from preapproval mailing lists. When lenders update the credit bureaus for individual accounts, the credit reports display those accounts as belonging to a deceased person. These accounts can stay on the deceased’s credit report for up to seven years. Eventually, they are deleted, and the credit report no longer exists.
To protect the deceased’s identity, the spouse or executor can notify the major credit bureaus of the death as soon as possible instead of waiting for a lender, the SSA or someone else to do it. The sooner the credit bureaus are notified, the sooner they can update the credit reports and help avoid identity theft.
How Do I Notify the Credit Bureaus of a Death?
Only a spouse or someone authorized to act on the deceased’s behalf, such as the executor of their estate, can notify credit bureaus about a death. They need to submit a copy of the death certificate and, documentation that shows they are legally allowed to do so if they aren’t the spouse. Here are the ways you can notify each credit bureau about a death:
- Experian®: Send a copy of the death certificate by mail to: Experian, P.O. Box 9701, Allen, TX 75013.
- TransUnion®: Send a copy of the death certificate by mail to: TransUnion, P.O. Box 2000, Chester, PA 19016.
- Equifax®: Send a copy of the death certificate by mail to: Equifax Information Services LLC, P.O. Box 105139, Atlanta, GA 30348-5139.
You only need to officially notify one major credit bureau, and the bureau you contact then shares that information with the other two. In addition, committing to credit report monitoring can help you identify warning signs of identity theft or discover a new activity that took place before your loved one passed away.
Guarding against identity theft is crucial, even after someone has died. Untangling identity theft issues can be a major hassle on top of dealing with grief and estate administration. Credit monitoring and identity theft protection can help avoid this scenario.