Key takeaways

  • A credit freeze is a crucial step in protecting a deceased loved one's financial information and preventing identity theft.
  • It’s important to notify all three major credit bureaus of the death and request a credit freeze.
  • Some debts may still need to be settled after a loved one's passing, and it’s important to contact creditors and handle these matters carefully.

Grieving the loss of a loved one is an emotionally and mentally challenging experience. Still, amid the turmoil of the grieving process, it’s essential to address the deceased’s financial matters and protect their credit information. Requesting a credit freeze is a crucial first step.

By following this process, you can safeguard their financial status and protect yourself and other loved ones from potential fraud or identity theft.

Why a credit freeze is necessary after a loved one’s death

A credit freeze is like a lock on someone’s credit report, making it harder for identity thieves to use their information for fraud.

When a loved one passes away, their financial details become vulnerable. Freezing their credit will:

  • Prevent identity theft
  • Prevent new accounts from being fraudulently opened under their name
  • Protect sensitive information

Without a credit freeze, the deceased’s personal data, such as their Social Security number (SSN), could be stolen and used to open credit cards or other financial accounts. Some criminals use obituaries, death certificates and other information to steal the identities of people who have died. They might open new accounts or commit other crimes under the deceased’s name, causing problems for living relatives.

Freezing credit makes it much tougher for thieves to open new accounts or misuse existing ones.

How to report a death to the credit bureaus

Initiating a credit freeze for a deceased loved one involves a few straightforward steps:

1. Gather your loved one’s personal details

Before you notify the credit bureaus of a loved one’s death, you’ll need to collect certain information and documentation:

  • The complete legal name of the deceased individual as it appears on official documents.
  • The deceased person’s SSN, which is crucial for identifying their credit file.
  • The date of birth of the deceased individual.
  • The date when the individual passed away.
  • A copy of their death certificate.

Your own identification may also be required if you’re the spouse or shared a credit file with the departed.

If you’re not the spouse, you may need to submit proof that you’re authorized to act on behalf of the deceased, such as a copy of a will, executor agreement or power of attorney documentation.

Having this information readily available will ensure a smooth and efficient process when you contact the credit bureaus.

2. Write letters to notify the credit bureaus

The three major credit bureaus, Transunion, Equifax and Experian, must be notified of the death. The first bureau you contact will notify the other two on your behalf.

However, one bureau cannot necessarily initiate a credit freeze across all three bureaus. So, you should contact all three bureaus and send copies of all necessary documents with each letter.

Use this simple template to notify the credit bureaus of your loved one’s death and request a credit freeze:

[Your Name]

[Your Address]

[City, State, Zip Code]

[Your Phone Number]


[Credit Bureau’s Name]

[Credit Bureau’s Address]

[City, State, Zip Code]

Subject: Notification of Death and Request for Credit Freeze

To whom it may concern,

I am writing to inform you of the passing of [Name of Deceased], [relationship to you, e.g., my spouse]. [He/She] passed away on [Date of Death]. I kindly request that you freeze [his/her] credit report to prevent any potential fraud or unauthorized access.

Enclosed is a copy of [Name of Deceased]’s death certificate as proof. Please freeze [his/her] credit report and mark it as “deceased — do not issue credit.”

I would also like to request a final copy of [Name of Deceased]’s credit report for my records.

Thank you for your prompt attention to this matter. Please confirm with me when you have received the notification and that a credit freeze has been placed.


[Your Name]

You can customize this template and include any information appropriate to your situation. Be sure to save a copy for your records.

Once you’ve drafted your letter, you can send it to one or all of the major credit bureaus via postal mail. Be sure to attach copies of identifying documents and send each letter via certified mail.

Appropriate contact addresses for notifying credit bureaus of a death are as follows:

P.O. Box 2000
Chester, PA 19016

P.O. Box 9701
Allen, TX 75013

Equifax Information Services LLC
P.O. Box 105139
Atlanta, GA 30348-5139

Times for the credit freeze may vary. Transunion will update the individual’s credit report within five days of receiving the documents and send you a confirmation letter. Experian will add a death notice to your loved one’s credit report upon receiving notification from the Social Security Administration or the requestor. Equifax will add a death notice to your departed’s credit report upon receiving the documents.

3. Confirm the freeze and ensure the account is flagged as deceased

After sending your request to the credit bureaus, confirm that they have initiated the credit freeze and properly flagged the deceased individual’s account:

  1. Allow some time for the credit bureaus to process your request. This typically takes a few days or up to a couple of weeks.
  2. Reach out to each of the three major credit bureaus — TransUnion, Experian and Equifax — either via phone or online.
  3. Ask them to verify that they have received your request to freeze the deceased individual’s credit report.
  4. Ask if the deceased’s account has been appropriately flagged as “deceased — do not issue credit” to protect their information from potential fraud.

5. Request a copy of your loved one’s credit report

While you are in contact with the credit bureaus, you should also request a copy of your loved one’s credit report. This will confirm that the report has been marked “deceased” and that a permanent credit freeze is in place.

You can also use the credit report to assess your loved one’s financial standing. Read the credit report carefully to identify any discrepancies and all outstanding accounts, and note any accounts that need your attention.

How to settle your loved one’s financial affairs

Once you’ve taken steps to freeze credit, it’s important to deal with your loved one’s outstanding financial obligations.

You might inherit some of their debts if you’re their spouse or beneficiary. Whether you’re on the hook to repay those debts depends on the terms of the accounts and your state’s laws. In some cases, a transfer of debt responsibility upon death is unavoidable.

For instance, if you jointly held debts with your loved one, like mortgages or shared credit card accounts, you could be responsible for them, no matter who made the charges. Similarly, if someone cosigned a loan or credit card for the deceased, they’ll be responsible for that debt.

If the deceased had a home equity loan on an inherited house, the heir would have to repay it. Timeshares and their maintenance fees will also fall on heirs if their names are on the deed.

Family members who authorized medical treatment may have to pay any uncovered medical bills, depending on state laws and document terms.

Contact your loved one’s creditors to:

  • Close accounts
  • Manage tax paperwork
  • Settle outstanding balances

In some situations, accounts may be closed automatically when a person passes away. However, some accounts may still require settlement, either partially or fully, even after the account holder’s death.

The bottom line

A credit freeze for a deceased loved one is a crucial step to safeguard their financial legacy. By taking the right steps and organizing important documents, you can safeguard their private information and handle financial matters with minimal stress.

Take each step with care — and seek professional assistance if needed — to honor your loved one’s financial well-being even after they’re gone.

Frequently asked questions

  • Make multiple copies of the death certificate and notify each of your relatives with this proof. Request account closure and settle any past-due balances when necessary. Monitor your relative’s credit reports for fraud while you’re waiting for a credit freeze to take effect with the bureaus.
  • Yes. When someone dies, you or the appointed representative need to file the deceased person’s final tax return. On this return, you must indicate the person’s death. At present, the IRS doesn’t require any other notification of the death, but you should always look to for up-to-date tax information.
  • A credit freeze can be temporarily lifted upon request. However, lifting a freeze can expose the account holder’s credit information to fraud risk.