Dear Liz: My husband died last year and we have three credit cards in his name with me as authorized user. When applying for new credit, do I still use his name or my name now? And should I remove his name and put my name only on all accounts?
Answer: You’ll apply for new credit in your own name, using your own credit history and income. If your credit cards are joint accounts, you can simply ask the issuers to remove your husband’s name.
Here’s the thing, though: Few credit cards these days are joint accounts. Typically there is a primary cardholder and an authorized user. When the primary cardholder dies, credit card issuers usually close the account, often within a few weeks.
Issuers normally find out about the death from the person settling the estate or from the Social Security Administration. Social Security, in its turn, usually learns about the death from the funeral home or from the person settling the estate.
It’s possible there has simply been an oversight, but you’ll want to make sure your husband’s death has been properly reported to Social Security and his creditors. If you are an authorized user rather than a joint account holder, you may find the card issuers will work with you to get replacement cards although you may have to settle for a smaller credit limit if your income has dropped (which is unfortunately a common situation for survivors).
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