How do I close the credit card accounts associated with my mother's estate?

A fellow caregiver asked...

I have durable power of attorney on my mother's estate. How do I go about closing her credit card accounts?

Expert Answer

Barbara Repa, a senior editor, is an attorney, a journalist specializing in aging issues, and the author of Your Rights in the Workplace (Nolo), now in its 10th edition.

It could just be a matter of confusing legal semantics, which are admittedly awfully confusing, but having a power of attorney does not entitle or obligate you to deal with your mother's estate. In fact, the power in the power of attorney ends at the death of the person for whom it operated.

Perhaps you were appointed the executor of your mother's will, or the administrator of her estate if she died without a will -- and either of those positions would make you responsible for cancelling her credit card accounts.

The procedure is fairly simple -- and surprisingly free of legal mumbo jumbo. The safest route is to take the credit cards in your mother's name, cut them in half, and send the pieces to the company that issued the card along with a statement that she died that includes the date of death. To ensure you have failsafe records, it's a good idea to include an extra copy of your letter and ask that those handling the matter acknowledge receiving your letter by signing it and sending it back to you.

Also, as a gesture of goodwill, many companies have a policy of cancelling the final payment due if it is not too large, so it wouldn't hurt to ask if the particular company has such a policy.