"Remember the Lord your God, for it is He who gives you the ability to produce wealth" ~ Deuteronomy 8:18
Your first objective is to proctect your spouse's identity. Unfortunately, there are individuals who read the obituary section of the newspaper and start to obtain and new identity and credit profile with the names of the deceased. So what you will need to do is alert the three major credit reporting bureaus, Equifax, Experian and TransUnion, of your spouse’s death. You will want to do this in writing. Your certified letter should include your name, address, phone number, and email address plus the full name, Social Security Number and most recent address of your spouse. Your letter also should also include the birthdate of your spouse and the date of death. Be sure to identify yourself as the surviving spouse and include a copy of your spouse’s death certificate. In your letter, you’ll want to request that a deceased notice and the statement “Do not issue credit” be added to your spouse’s credit report, and ask to be notified if there are any attempts made to secure credit under your spouse's credit profile.
The next step will be notifying your spouse's creditors and informing them of his or her death.
In a joint account, both individuals are responsible for making the payments. Therefore the financial responsibility will fall on the surviving spouse. As a surviving spouse, there are two options: close the account and pay off any balance or request that the account be changed to an individual account in his or her name and continue to pay as agreed.
Authorized User Accounts:
An authorized user is not responsible for the payment on the credit card account. A surviving spouse that was simply an authorized user on his or her spouse’s individual credit card account may also contact the credit card issuer and request that a new card be issued in his or her name.
Credit cards held exclusively in the name of your spouse should be canceled. Any payments due on these credit cards should be paid by the estate. However, as a general rule of thumb and as a surviving spouse, you are not responsible for the payment of these accounts and many credit card companies will write off the debt owed to them. However, in some community property states a surviving spouse might be responsible for the payments of credit cards opened in their spouse’s name.
If you had a joint bank account with your spouse, it will automatically pass to you. Check with the bank about changing the title and signature card on the account. To change stocks or bond tittles, check with your stockbroker.
If a bank account was held only in the name of your spouse, those assets will have to go through probate. An exception to this would be trust accounts. With this in mind, it is best to try and obtain the funds from the individual account by means of a debit card or the like, otherwise it could be a significant amount of time before those funds are released to you.
Debts owed by your spouse will be the responsibility of the estate or surviving spouse and should be forwarded to the personal representative or executor who is settling the estate. However, you should pay debts which are jointly owed, particularly mortgage payments and utility or phone bills, in order to keep a good credit rating. If you don't have an estate established, speak to a credit counselor or someone you trust and respect that you know will offer sound, solid guidance regarding your financial matters.