What happens to a spouse's credit report when they die

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Credit Advice

Topics addressed on May 27, 2009:

What happens to a spouse's credit report when they die

Dear Max,

When a spouse dies what happens to their credit information? Can it be purged or removed with a copy of the death certificate?

- MRB

Dear MRB,

When a person dies, the Social Security Administration usually reports their Social Security number as belonging to a deceased individual. The entire credit report is then “flagged” as belonging to a person who has died. You can also have Experian update the file by providing a copy of the death certificate.

The credit report isn’t deleted from Experian’s files immediately. If the file was deleted an identity thief could more easily use the deceased’s identity to commit credit fraud.

Instead, Experian maintains the file for a time as a safeguard against identity theft. If the deceased’s identifying information is used to apply for credit, the lender will get a notice that the report belongs to a person who has died. The lender then can stop the transaction and verify the applicant’s identity, helping prevent fraud.

This type of whole-file deceased indicator should not be confused with a single account being associated with a deceased individual.

Such an indicator does not apply to the entire credit report. Rather, the lender has reported that their records indicate the account is associated with a deceased individual.

On rare occasion, a joint account may inadvertently be reported by a lender as being associated with a deceased person, when in fact the other account holder has passed away.

In that event, you should contact the lender reporting the account as deceased so they can correct their records and your credit history.  Or, get a copy of your credit report and dispute the account as not belonging to a deceased person. Experian will then contact the creditor and ask them to verify the status of your account.

Thanks for asking.

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