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How to Close Credit Cards for Deceased Relatives

When a loved one passes away, the last thing on your mind is their credit card bills. However, in order to protect the deceased's estate from additional charges, fees, or even identity theft, it's important to remember that your loved one's credit cards will remain open and active until you take the following three steps.

1. Call Credit Issuers and Close the Accounts

Round up all your relative's credit cards and/or credit card statements and determine which credit card companies you need to contact. You should be able to find the right contact information either on the back of the credit cards or their monthly statements.

When you make the call, let the customer service agent know right away that you would like to close the account of a deceased relative. Most credit card companies have a special group of agents trained to deal with these situations, and you'll likely find them to be much more compassionate and helpful than your average representative.

2. Provide Copies of the Death Certificate

The customer service agent should request that you submit a copy of the death certificate in order to close the account. Ask if they will accept a faxed or emailed copy to save you from having to make an unnecessary run to the post office. And if that's not possible, be sure to mail the document via certified mail with return receipt requested.

If you don't have the death certificate yet, request it from the funeral home. Once the credit card company receives the death certificate and verifies the date your loved one passed, the account will be closed as of the date of death and any interest or fees after that date should be waived. If they don't offer to waive these charges up front, be sure to ask.

3. Notify Estate Executor of Existing Debts

A closed account doesn't mean any remaining balance will magically disappear. Unless the account is jointly owned, the estate itself will still be responsible for the debt. Therefore, it's important that you keep records of the accounts you've closed and notify the executor of the estate regarding any outstanding debts.

Photo credit: Shutterstock / Africa Studio

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Joshua Heckathorn's picture

Joshua Heckathorn was President of Creditnet, is a credit expert and has been featured on CNNMoney, FOX Business, Yahoo Finance, The Street, and many other national publications during the past ten years.  He received a Bachelor of Science in Management (Finance) from Brigham Young University's Marriott School of Business and earned his MBA from Seattle University.

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