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Death of a spouse

If you've lost a spouse, you're already going through one of the most emotionally draining experiences possible. When a loved one dies, there are also numerous financial matters to deal with, including credit and debt issues. There are, however, some simple steps you can take now to help down the road.

Stabilizing your credit in the event of a death can be difficult, especially if your spouse held all of the credit in his or her name. Keep in mind that in community property states, credit accounts opened during marriage are automatically joint. That means you are still responsible for any debt that your deceased spouse incurred.

By law, a creditor cannot automatically close a joint account or change the terms because of the death of one spouse. Generally, the creditor will ask the survivor to file a new credit application in his or her own name. After reviewing the new information, the creditor will then decide to continue to extend credit or alter the credit limit. You might want to open a new credit account in your name. In doing so, keep in mind that you must use your name only when applying. Including your deceased spouse's name will result in a joint account. Finally, to limit the fraud risk posed by pre-approved credit cards in your deceased spouse's name, call 1-888-567-8688 to opt out the deceased's name from lists for pre-approved offers from all three major credit bureaus.

This article is provided for general guidance and information. It is not intended as, nor should it be construed to be, legal, financial or other professional advice. Please consult with your attorney or financial advisor to discuss any legal or financial issues involved with credit decisions.
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