Death and Credit Card Debt: What Happens Now?

After the death of someone who leaves credit card debt behind, generally, the estate in charge of the assets is responsible for the debt. Credit card companies may or may not be repaid, depending upon the deceased's assets and other debts. If you are a joint holder of the credit card account, however, you remain responsible for the debt.

Debt and Probate

When an estate goes into probate, the executor determines which bills are to be paid with which assets. After this, the remaining assets are distributed to family members or others according to the will or laws of inheritance.

Sometimes Credit Card Companies Lose

If there is not enough money to pay off all the bills, the credit card companies are notified that there are insufficient funds to cover the debts. A credit company cannot pass on the debt to children, spouses or other relatives or legally force or coerce them to pay off the debt.

A Shared Account

However, if there is a joint holder to a credit card account, the surviving account holder is responsible for any outstanding debt. This responsibility is not held by a surviving authorized user who is not a joint holder.

How to Handle the Accounts

For the most part, the executor of the estate will be responsible for notifying each of the creditors that the account holder has died. The executor will also inform the creditors whether any payments are to be forthcoming. If there isn't enough money in the estate and there is not a joint account holder, the creditors will be told this.

Sometimes credit card companies will continue to pressure family members, especially spouses. If this happens to you and you are not a joint holder of the card, direct all requests for payment to the executor. If the requests or demands for payment continue, you may want to contact a lawyer.

The important thing to remember is that, for the most part, if there is not enough money in the estate during probate and the statute of limitations has passed, there is no recourse for credit card companies. They will be forced to swallow the debt.
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