Credit Question: My father recently died. Can I get a copy of his credit report to see if he owed any debts we aren’t aware of? And do I need to notify the credit reporting agencies of his debt? I’ve tried calling the credit reporting agencies but I can’t talk with a live person to find out what to do.
Answer: First, our sincerest condolences for the loss of your father. I contacted the three major credit reporting agencies for an answer to your question. Heather Battison, senior director of education for TransUnion’s consumer products, explained the basic process and Mary Reed, who has contributed to a number of books on legal topics including estate planning, filled me in on how to obtain the documents you’ll need.
[Free Tool: Obtain your Identity Risk Score from Credit.com]
Here’s what to do:
Step 1. Gather the documents you will need. If your father prepared a durable financial power of attorney before he died and named you as his financial agent, make a copy of that document. If not, and assuming you are the executor of your father’s will, you’ll need to obtain letters testamentary from the probate court where your father’s will is filed. (Get one copy for each of the three credit reporting agencies.) If your father’s will has not yet been filed with the probate court, you’ll need to do that first. The court will require you provide a certified copy of your father’s death certificate in order to do that.
Step 2. Mail a copy of the certified death certificate and either the copy of your father’s durable power of attorney or a copy of the letters testamentary to all three credit reporting agencies. Include a cover letter explaining what you are trying to accomplish, and make sure the deceased’s name, address and Social Security number are clearly identified in the letter. According to TransUnion, the cost of obtaining a copy of your father’s credit report will depend on the state in which the deceased person lived and whether copies have been ordered in the past year by you or by the person who died. Here are the mailing addresses of the credit reporting agencies:
P.O. Box 2000
Chester, PA 19022
[Featured Product: Shop for Prepaid Debit Cards]
Equifax Information Services LLC
Office of Consumer Affairs
PO Box 105139
Atlanta, GA 30348
P.O. Box 2002
Allen, TX 75013
TransUnion’s Battison also recommends that you update your deceased father’s credit reports by:
1. Contacting all of his creditors and requesting that they update their records to show that he is dead. The creditors will probably want you to forward to them a copy of his death certificate, if they have not already been notified of the death.
2. Check with the Social Security Administration to ensure that it has updated its files. Refer to the blue page of your local telephone directory for the address and phone number of the nearest Social Security office. Or, use this online tool to find a local office.
Experian explains on its web site that spouses, executors or others representing the deceased can request that a “deceased indicator” be added to the deceased’s credit report by providing a copy of the death certificate to its consumer assistance center. The indicator will help prevent identity theft.
I hope this helps. Please let us know if you have any problems getting his reports.
[Related article: Collecting Debt From Those Who Have Died: FTC Weighs In]
This article was updated June 29, 2012.