The loss of your marriage partner could impact both your credit score and that of your deceased spouse. The credit bureau doesn’t know when someone dies, and this can create issues with joint accounts, and make it more likely that someone might try to steal the identity of your partner. Of course, your credit score isn’t topmost on your list after losing someone you love, but there are still practical matters to be addressed after a loss.
#1 Find Out What Debt They Owe
You might think the best choice is to keep paying your spouse’s debts and bills, but you might not be legally or contractually required to do so. For instance, if your spouse had a credit card with a balance on it, and your name isn’t associated with that card, then that is your spouse’s debt. If they had a substantial estate, the credit card company might demand payment from the executor. Otherwise, this debt shouldn’t be your problem.
#2 Find Out What Debts You Owe Jointly
If you have both your names on a mortgage, a car loan, or home equity line, it’s important to know that these debt obligations might remain yours to deal with after your spouse passes away. You don’t want to pay bills you don’t have to and drain finances you need, so it is important to assess what is joint and what is individual debt before making any debt payments.
#3 Find Out Which Joint Debts Are Insured
Debts that are jointly signed by you and your deceased spouse will still be your responsibility, but you might find that some of these debts are insured. Some home insurance policies have riders that will pay off the mortgage should one of the debtors pass away while the loan is still in repayment, and some credit cards also have insurance policies that pay off the balance in case of death, although these are primarily important for joint debt.
#4 Notify The Credit Bureaus
You will need to obtain multiple copies of your spouse’s death certificate to help with this process. You need only notify one of the three bureaus and then they will notify the other two. You must send the notice in writing, identifying yourself as the spouse and asking that their credit file be closed. You’ll also have to provide name, date of birth, and social security number. A death notice will be added to the file, and all reporting activity will cease.
#5 Prevent Identity Theft
It will take a little while for the documentation to be recorded, and you may have to deal with follow-up requests from the credit bureaus in the meantime. It is important to close down your partner's credit file, even if there are no debts owing. Why? It can prevent someone from stealing the identity of your spouse and using it to open bogus accounts. Some scammers watch for obituaries and engage in identity theft by stealing the credit files of the recently deceased. Closing down the account will prevent this from happening.
If your spouse maintains all of your finances and responsibilities, it can make it difficult for a surviving spouse to know what to do. It’s a good idea to share passwords and user names for all accounts just in case the unthinkable happens and you lose your spouse suddenly.