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Death and Credit: Things You Should Know

Be Organized.  Take Precautions.  Act Proactively.  Be Prepared.

Be Organized. Take Precautions. Act Proactively. Be Prepared.

I saw an infomercial recently starring Joan Rivers and her daughter, Melissa. The aging comedian was confronting a difficult, often uncomfortable topic … that of death. HER death. Melissa was having a very hard time speaking of this topic with her mother … even covering her ears at one point.

Now there can be debate about whether Joan Rivers is typically funny or not … but with this particular presentation, I personally thought she did a great job.

Even broaching the topic of death can make some people terribly emotional or squeamish. But Joan delivered her message well, with humor and grace. And she would not let a reluctant Melissa deter her.

Joan's message?

Death is inevitable, so take steps to prepare … and have that all-important, open discussion regarding it with your loved ones, sooner than later. The topic of death is one that nobody truly wants to discuss. Yet it's a topic that should not be avoided.

This infomercial got me thinking. Obviously on a personal basis, but also regarding my business as well. I got thinking I needed to reach-out to my clients and readers and provide some valuable, timely info on this topic.

So I've put together some basics regarding this topic. Bits of info to get you thinking and talking … and taking action, if you share credit with a spouse, partner, or anyone else.

Keep in mind, that the tips and suggestions mentioned here are only that … meant to serve as a road map. To be completely protected, local legal advice should be sought. But in general, those things provided her should help you be better prepared, should the unimaginable come your way. And it provides a good starting point for having that important conversation between you and your loved ones.

Credit & Death: Precautions & Actions to Consider, Take, and Talk About

Joint Credit Card: After the death of a spouse, Contact the credit card company. At that time you have 2 options: Pay-off the balance due on the card (and possibly close it) … or … transfer the account to your name and pay-off the remaining balance. (Realize that should you transfer the balance, the credit card company CAN take that opportunity to alter the terms of the original agreement or limit the credit limit.)
Joint Credit Card: Prior to death, should you want no responsibility for a balance left upon the death of your spouse, sign-up on the credit card as an Authorized User, rather than a joint account holder.
Loans: Contact ALL lenders immediately to inform them of your spouse's/partner's passing. (Including Student Loan Accounts)
Savings, etc: Contact ALL Banks, Credit Unions, Account Holders quickly.

Financial/Legal Documentation:

These documents should be organized and easily available at all times prior to an emergency or someone's passing. But if not already gathered, upon death, find these legal and financial documents. You will be called upon to produce them at one point or another.

Those can include:

Multiple Copies of the Death Certificate (Typically 1 dozen are needed)
Certificate Showing Medical Cause of Death
Savings Account Info/Acct. Numbers
Any Investment Accounts Info/Acct. Numbers
Pension/Benefits Account Info
Organ Donor Card, if relevant
Proof of your relationship
to the deceased partner
YOUR Social Security Card/Number
Life Insurance Policy/Document & Riders
ALL general insurance policies (car, home, etc)
Copy of Home (Ownership/Occupancy) Documents
(Deeds, Leases, etc.)
Property Tax Bill
Safety Box Info
Recent Tax Returns
If Self-Employed: Also have company
documents, accounts, tax info, etc.
Vehicle Registration Info

Please remember …the risk of an identity being stolen doesn't stop upon someone's death. Take precautions and act proactively. Contact all three (3) major credit bureaus to report your spouse's/partner's death. Then follow-up and request a copy of the updated credit report to have proof of the credit bureaus' actions. An updated report will alert you to any further actions needing to be taken.

The 3 major credit bureaus are:

Experian – P.O. Box 2104, Allen, TX 75013-2104
Website: Tel: 888-397-3742

TransUnion – 2 Baldwin Place, P.O. Box 1000, Chester, PA 19022
Website: Tel: 800.888.4213

Equifax – P.O. Box 740241, Atlanta, GA 30374
Website: Tel: 800.685.1111

FREE Credit Reports are available annually. Everyone in the U.S. is allowed to view their credit report FREE once every 12 months. To obtain your FREE credit report contact:

Upon calling, they will ask you a set of questions in order to confirm your identity. They then send you the requested credit report.

Also keep in mind that most mortgage lenders provide this valuable service, as well. Many times their service will also be FREE. I know I perform this service for my clients.

The value of organization, precaution, and proactive actions cannot be overstated in this instance. Act now and be prepared, should the unimaginable occur. And have that all-important conversation with your loved ones or estate executors. Make them aware of your preparations and where you keep important documents. During a time of stress and heartache, you will be glad that you did so on their behalf.

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