When a friend or relative dies, you should move quickly to notify banks and service providers of the decedent's death. Failure to do so could result in further charges being made that could complicate the settling of the decedent's estate. Due to consumer privacy laws, a bank or service provider cannot share information with you about someone else's account. However, a company can, and should, close or freeze an account if you can prove that the account owner has died.
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Obtain several copies of the decedent's death certificate from the local registrar. You may have to pay a nominal fee for each copy, but, in order to close accounts, you must give service providers a certified copy rather than a photocopied version of the document.
Contact the three national credit bureaus: Equifax, Experian and TransUnion (See Resources). Notify the bureaus about the death of your friend or relative and mail each organisation a copy of the death certificate so that the three firms can update the decedent's credit report so that any vendors checking the report will see that your friend or relative has died.
Mail a copy of the death certificate to the Social Security Administration (see Resources) if the decedent received benefits or disability payments. The Social Security Administration normally notifies banks when a benefits recipient dies and the administration can recoup any money that was direct deposited into the decedent's account after death.
Contact banks and service providers, such as phone and utility firms, with which the decedent had accounts. Provide each organisation with a certified copy of the death certificate. Due to privacy reasons, the service providers may refuse to confirm whether the accounts have been closed. However, if you continue to receive bills directed toward the decedent then contact the service providers again and if necessary contact an attorney if the firm refuses to stop the charges.
Tips and warnings
- If you had a joint account with the decedent then you should provide the service provider or bank with a copy of the death certificate, but you can continue to use the account as you did in the past. If you are named as the pay-on-death beneficiary on an account, you can close it simply by providing the bank with a copy of the death certificate and a valid form of identification.
- In some states, banks can charge dormant account fees on inactive bank accounts. If you fail to close your deceased relative's accounts, these fees could deplete the entire account balance.
- Criminals often assume the identities of the recently deceased, so you must notify the credit bureaus about the death of your loved one to ensure that no one can establish new accounts in the deceased's name.
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