topic | first days after death

Step 6: freeze financial accounts

Activity 1
  Halt Access to Financial Accounts and Credit Cards

If financial accounts (checking, savings, money market accounts, etc.) or credit cards are jointly owned, the joint survivor continues to have full access to them.  The survivor can change the accounts, needing only an original death certificate to remove the name of the deceased.  A notary verified statement might be required for accounts opened in a name other than what appears on the death certificate (such as a nickname).

  • Identify any automatic bill payments drafted from banking, checking, or credit accounts.  This information may be found in Deposits Deductions.  
  • Stop automatic deposits or withdrawals before freezing or closing accounts. Contact each company authorized to make automatic withdrawals or deposits, and request that the accounts be paid by check.
  • Request that banks freeze accounts if they are not jointly owned.  They may require verbal notification or a copy of the obituary. If an account is in a Trust, check with the Trust Department or Customer Service at the bank regarding what actions should be taken.
  • Freeze or cancel credit cards that are not joint accounts. Notify the credit card company of the death. Note that accounts generally cannot be closed before outstanding balances have been paid.

Identify authorized users for each credit card and account.  Reclaim cards that will not continue to be used.

Inquire whether annual fees may be refunded upon cancellation.

Change the account name to list only the joint survivor as applicable. Sole responsibility for the account is then assumed by the survivor.

Request assistance, in writing, to access accounts that require a PIN or password. Online payments and accounts are often password protected, and these passwords may be unknown. Gaining this access can take time.

Activity 2
  Notify Accounts if Fraud is Suspected

Immediately notify financial institutions if there is a concern about fraud on any account.

  • Visit in person if possible with an original death certificate.  If the death certificate is not available, take an obituary notice.
  • Send a letter, email, or fax with a copy of the death certificate to financial institutions that cannot be visited personally. 
  • Consider enlisting the help of a credit counselor.   

(if this Step is complete)
to Step 7

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