How to Notify Creditors after a Death
There are many logistics that loved ones need to follow up on after a death has occurred, a major one being the handling of the deceased's estate and debts. This can get even more complicated if the deceased had no estate or there isn't any great paper trail regarding their finances. How do you know which creditors to get in touch with? How do you deal with debts after a death if there's no estate?
Before you start sending out notices, it can help to know what kind of debts you have to deal with after a death. After someone has died, it’s up to the designated executor or administrator to manage the decedent’s estate. When it comes to which debts are forgiven at death, it’s worth consulting with an estate attorney or the probate court for anything you’re unclear about since some debts are forgiven while others can transfer to the spouse of the deceased.
What happens to debts after deaths with no estates?
If the decedent passes away with debts but has no estate to settle those debts, their spouse may be responsible for some types of debt (listed above). If there are no applicable inherited debts, no estate, and no assets, the creditor has to eat the cost.
Sending a death notice to creditors
Before you get started sending out notices, there are a few important steps to take. The first step is notifying the Social Security Administration of the death and ensuring that they have updated their files for the person who passed away.
This may have been handled by the funeral home you're working with, but it's important to check with Social Security just in case. Find your local Social Security office here.
Why do I need to notify Social Security?
Notifying Social Security and ensuring their files are updated prevents fraudsters from opening up accounts in the deceased's name. This is a common practice of fraudsters after learning of a death and can be a huge headache for families that don't ensure this is taken care of.
Contact one of the major credit bureaus by phone
While you'll still need to send in a letter to the agency, contacting them by phone helps you prevent any fraudulent activity from taking place on the account after the death. Call in to one of the credit agencies and let them know a death has occurred. This is a good time to double check the information they need you to mail in and the address they want you to mail it in to. They will contact the other credit agencies and notify them, but you'll still need to mail in documentation showing the death has occurred.
Submit a letter to one of the three nationwide credit reporting bureaus
The good news is that whichever agency you decide to send a death notice to first will notify the other main credit agencies on your behalf after you send a death notice to them. This makes sending a death notice to creditors easier for you and prevents you from having to send multiple letters to each of the agencies after a death.
Contact a credit bureau by phone:
- Experian - 888-397-3742
- Equifax - 800-685-111
- TransUnion - 800-888-4213
Here's what you'll need before you send a letter to one of the three bureaus:
- A copy of the de death certificate
- The full, legal name of the decedent
- Their social security number
- Their date of birth
- Their date of death
In the packet you send to them, you should include information about yourself, depending on your relationship to the deceased. If you're the executor or someone other than the spouse of the deceased, include a copy of your identification (such as your driver's license) and a copy of the will, Power of Attorney documentation, or an executor agreement.
If you are the spouse, the letter should include your name, your mailing address, and a copy of your identification (such as a driver's license) as well.
Notice to creditors template
Once you have the above information gathered and supporting documents ready to go, it's time to write your letter. There are many different creditors that the deceased could have an open account with but generally the letter you write will remain the same, whether that’s a letter to a credit card company after a death or a letter to a window washing business after a death. The following notification of death letter template is for you to use and edit as you wish when writing your notification for credit agencies.
[Your full name and mailing address]
To [Name of Credit Bureau],
The purpose of this letter is to inform you of the death of [full name]. I am requesting that you list a formal notification of death in [his/her] credit file and that you notify the other credit bureaus.
[Name]'s information is as follows:
Full name: [Full name]
Resided at: [Address]
Social Security Number: [Social Security Number]
Date of birth: [date]
Date of death: [date]
My name is [full name]. I am the deceased's [state your relationship]. I have included additional documentation showing our relationship. Please let me know if any additional documentation or information is needed. My email address is [email] and my phone number is [phone number].
Thank you for your help in this matter.
After you write this letter, you'll want to collect copies of your documents and mail the packet to one of the major credit reporting agencies at the following addresses:
- Experian: Experian's Consumer Assistance Center, P.O. Box 4500, Allen, TX 7501
- TransUnion: TransUnion, P.O. Box 2000, Chester, PA 19016
- Equifax: Equifax Information Services LLC, P.O. Box 105139, Atlanta, GA 30348-5139
Gather information from credit reports
Once you've notified Social Security and have ensured their files are updated, it's time to get a list of creditors you'll be sending notification letters out to. The easiest way to do this is to pull a credit report with one of the three credit agencies in the United States: TransUnion, Experian, and Equifax. Once you notify them of the death, you'll have the option to request a copy of their credit report. Pulling a credit report lets you see information about the deceased's open credit accounts and any debts they owe. It can also be beneficial to pull a credit report from each of the three credit agencies if you want to be extra thorough.
After you've written a list of creditors to contact, it's time to start sending out death notices or contact creditors about your loved one passing away. It can help to send death notifications by certified mail so you can track who received them and when they were delivered.
Sample letter to creditors after death
Note: Before you write any letters to creditors after a death, you should consult with a lawyer to see what your options are, what your obligations are, and to clear up any questions you have about the probate process and your responsibilities.
Writing a letter to creditors after a death is a bit different than the letter you'll write to one of the major credit bureaus. Here's a death notice to creditors that you can send on the decedent's behalf:
[Name of creditor or company]
Re: [name of decedent] / [account number or reference number] - now deceased
Account number: [account number]
Date of birth: [date of birth]
Date of death: [date of death]
To whom it may concern,
As the representative of [decedent’s first name], I am writing to inform you that they have passed away.
Please cancel their account immediately. If there is an outstanding balance on the account, please notify me as soon as possible at the included address.
I also request that you acknowledge receipt of this notice by signing a copy of this notice and returning it to me. I have included a stamped and self-addressed envelope for your convenience.
Thank you for your assistance in this matter.
[Your full name]
[Your mailing address]
Do I have to post a notice to creditors in the newspaper?
Each state has different requirements regarding probate, so you should check with your state’s probate court before proceeding. In general, you may be required to post a notice to creditors in the newspaper after someone has passed away. The notice is typically posted in local newspapers and serves as a notification to any and all creditors. It requires them to file claims by appearing in court or to make payments to the estate.
You can find a notice to creditors example below: