How to Cancel Accounts When Someone Dies

Ben Allen  | 

After somebody passes away (especially if it’s unexpected) it usually falls to their spouse, children, family, or maybe even a close friend, to pick up the pieces of their life. Even if the deceased has a detailed will and instructions to help out, somebody has to go about resolving issues. One of the most common issues is cancelling the many accounts a person opens in their life.

Accounts that need to be canceled can range from credit cards, to Netflix, to Facebook. Something needs to be done with each of these, and we’ve got the basic information you need should you ever find yourself tasked with the job.

How to Cancel A Deceased’s Credit Cards

First off, before you go about cancelling all of the accounts, make sure you have the responsibility and ability to do so. You either need to be named the executor within the person’s will, or be the administrator for the person’s estate. If you are neither of these positions, you won’t have the authority to cancel most accounts.

Find All Active Credit Cards

First, you need a record of all open credit cards. A good way to do this is to request a credit report on them from the major credit bureaus. This gives a detailed record of where they opened credit cards and when. Pouring over it can tell you what credit cards are active, and identify open and unpaid debts you’ll need to handle in order to close the line of credit.

Stop Using the Deceased’s Credit Cards

Make sure nobody is using any of the deceased’s open credit cards, even if it’s for funeral expenses. If the account is joint with a spouse or child, there won’t be any interruption to using it, just make sure to request that the deceased be removed from the account.

Get multiple official copies of the death certificate, because in order to close any type of financial account, you’ll need it. Order more copies than you think you’ll need, as you will have to send one to each major credit bureau, and one to every credit card company and bank associated with an account.

Contact the Card Issuer to Cancel Accounts

Call the credit card issuer and ask for the department of deceased accounts. From there, follow their instructions, which will usually include sending in a death certificate through the mail, along with which accounts need to be closed. It’s important to request that any outstanding charges and interest be waived because of the death. Follow the directions and make sure to receive a written confirmation that the account is closed.

Coordinate Final Payments

If that final payment is too large to be waived, then the final bill needs to be paid from the deceased’s estate. If a creditor is demanding payment, tell them to submit a proof of claim to the estate, and only pay them when they do so. Never agree to pay off the deceased’s debts yourself, and don’t ever add your money to the estate.

Closing Bank Accounts, Investments, and Other Financial Accounts

It’s time to delve into the deceased’s bank accounts and investments. Hopefully, they have a detailed recorded saved as part of the will for you to use, but if not, don’t fret, it’s still possible.

To close the account, will or no will, you will need to get a copy of the death certificate and contact the probate court. There, you can file the will and carry it out, or if you lack a will, inform them of what is happening. Then, the judge will authorize pulling the funds from the bank and other areas of investment. If money isn’t covered by a will, or no will is available, then the judge will decide who is the next legal owner of the funds.

From the judge, you’ll receive a letter of testamentary that names you the executor of the estate. From there, you contact the banks and provide this letter, along with account information, to gain access to the accounts. Then, you must follow the will or instructions of the judge concerning the funds and then once all funds are removed, the account will close.

This same process is done with other investments and similar financial accounts. For traditional investments like stocks and bonds, the asset is changed over in name only, leaving the new owner responsible if they want to sell the asset for cash or not. Once the inheritance is given out, it falls to the recievers to handle the money from there.

Cancel Subscriptions and Stop Recurring Payments

Now that all of the financial and credit card accounts are cancelled, it’s time to go after the accounts that want money. If these accounts are not closed quickly, they might be able to file a claim on part of the estate for services rendered after death.

So first, if an account normally receives a recurring payment, with no major outstanding debts, all you need to cancel them is access to the account. A great example for this is a Netflix account. If you know their email account information, you can easily gain access to the Netflix admin settings and cancel it, paying off any money owed from the estate. If you can’t gain access to the email or account information, contact their customer support and explain what happened. They’ll ask for a method to verify your identity and the deceased’s identity and cancel it for you.

Other payments, like a cell phone bill or utilities are a little harder. For a cell phone bill, you’ll need to contact their customer support and say you want to close a deceased’s account. You’ll need to pay off the bill (and possibly cancellation fees) from the estate, and if that can’t be done fully, return the phone to the carrier. Utilities, like electricity and gas, will need to be paid off and either cancelled completely or transferred to somebody else in charge of the home. If the home was willed to a person, or has been sold, then the utilities will be transferred to them without an interruption in service.

Make sure you catch every single account. Pour over recent bank and credit card statements for recurring transactions. Missing one can lead to a headache of paying a major fee a few months down the road.

Closing Online Accounts

Finally, once everything else has been closed, it’s time to close any online accounts the deceased had created. These aren’t as critical as financial accounts, since there are typically no debts or assets associated with them, but it is still an important step. Start with accounts to online stores like Amazon and eBay, as they are often the first targets for fraud. Cancelling the credit cards used on these online stores can help prevent fraud in the short term. Cancelling these will require contacting customer support and providing personal information for the deceased.

Then, start closing down social media profiles. If you have access to their email and login info, it’s pretty easy to close these accounts. Simply go into the account settings and chose to “deactivate” the account. Consider politely putting up a message on their social media telling loved ones you will be closing the account and give them time to save photos or messages from the deceased. If you don’t have access to the account, you can file a request with each site, which typically ask for confirmation of the deceased with a death certificate. Some social media sites, like Facebook, can even turn the page into a memorialization of the deceased and not allow anybody access to it.

Once everything else is closed down, it’s time to shut down their emails. You might want to wait a month or two before doing this and check to see if they receive notifications or messages from accounts you might have missed. Again, if you have access to their email, closing the account usually just means going into their settings and selecting the option to deactivate the email. Be sure to eventually pull the plug on the email though. If somebody can gain access to it illegally, they might find sensitive information useful to stealing the deceased’s identity and opening up credit cards in their name.

Closing all of these accounts will take some time, but it needs to be done, and the sooner it’s accomplished, the less headaches you’ll have later. Be sure to have plenty of official copies of the death certificate and do a little investigative work. Track down as many accounts as you can and cancel every single one of them. Most major businesses have a process in place for cancelling deceased accounts and will work with you to close them quickly.


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Ben Allen is a freelance content creator and digital marketer who believes in helping small businesses succeed. He spends his free time bragging about his two daughters, eating stuffed crust pizza, and playing video games.

This post was updated February 13, 2018. It was originally published January 23, 2018.