credit cards

What should I do with credit cards if my spouse dies?


Q. My wife and I share a couple of credit cards but we also have cards that are just in our own names. When one of us dies, is it better to cancel that spouse’s card or let it stay active?
— Looking for advice

A. There are several issues to consider with your credit cards.

First, if your spouse dies, and the credit cards are in her name, generally you will not be responsible for the debt unless you live in a community property state where creditors can pursue the surviving spouse, said

New Jersey, though, is not such a state, she said.

Of your joint credit cards, you are responsible for any debt that remains, she said.

“Once a spouse has passed, no one should be using a card solely in that person’s name, even to pay expenses of the deceased,” D’Agostini said. “This could be construed to be fraud.”

D’Agostini said she recommends canceling the cards to protect you from fraud or any future identity theft, Also, you want to be sure that you avoid any annual fees for the cards.

She said you should call the card companies to cancel, but also follow up with written notification.

“If there are charges on the account, you can ask for those to be canceled,” she said. “You will need to provide a death certificate of course and some personal information.”

You may also want to follow up with the three credit bureaus — Experian, Equifax and TransUnion — to freeze the deceased person’s credit, she said.

“This will help with anybody trying to use their name in the future,” D’Agostini said.

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This story was originally published on Sept. 14, 2021. presents certain general financial planning principles and advice, but should never be viewed as a substitute for obtaining advice from a personal professional advisor who understands your unique individual circumstances.