Financial matters may be the last thing you want to think about when a loved one dies, but attending to any open credit card accounts soon after the death avoids possible problems in the future, such as misuse and fraud. A spouse or executor of the estate can contact the creditors to request the termination of the accounts.
Contact the Issuer
Obtain a credit report for the deceased from each of the three major credit reporting bureaus and check for all open credit card accounts. Call each credit card company to find out what it requires for closing the account. Some ask for a copy of the death certificate, for example. Also ask about any balance on the account. You can find the customer service number for the company on the back of the deceased's credit card and in the account statements.
Pay the Balance
You are responsible for any balance on the credit card account if you are a joint account holder or cosigner. You also are responsible if you are the spouse of the deceased and live in a community property state, like California or Arizona. If you are not in any way responsible for the account, payment for the credit card balance should come from the deceased's estate. If the estate cannot pay this bill, notify the company in your formal notification. In such a case, the company must bear the loss and write off the debt.
Close the Account
Write a letter to formally notify the company of the account holder's death. Include the individual's name, Social Security number and date of birth. Also include a copy of the deceased's death certificate and proof that you are authorized to act for the estate, such as a form giving you power of attorney or a letter of testamentary from a probate court. Send the letter and documents by registered mail with return receipt requested as proof that you initiated this action.
Shortly after you send the letter, contact the credit card company again to ensure that the account has been closed and its records show any balance as paid or written off. Ask for a written confirmation from the company. File it with other documents from the decedent's estate as evidence that the process has been completed.