Credit Card FAQ

Which Credit Cards Are You Responsible For After Your Spouse's Death?

27 June 2012 by CreditCardsCo™

When you're dealing with the death of a spouse, the last thing you want to think about is managing debt and paying bills. Sadly, the creditors won't give you much time to grieve before they start coming to you for payment. It's important to know your rights and which debts you are responsible for during this sensitive time.

Many people are unclear of whether they will be responsible for their spouse's debt or not. Of course, the answer is a bit complicated and depends on a few factors. Researching this type of information is important to give you the peace of mind you will need when you're grieving.

If your spouse opened credit cards in his own name, you aren't responsible for paying off the balance and most creditors will write the debt off if he has passed away. However, if you live in a community property state, the credit card can be considered a joint account, and as the surviving spouse, they may ask you to pay the debt off. Community property states are Arizona, California, Idaho, Louisiana, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Washington, and Wisconsin. Even if you live in one of these states, it's best to just contact the creditor and inform them of your spouse's passing and ask them to close the account. If they don't bring up payment, you shouldn't either. Since your name is not on the credit card, it will not reflect on your credit report either, so that is one less concern you'll have to think about.

If you have a joint credit card account with your spouse, you will now become solely responsible for the repayment. You'll still need to inform the credit card company of the death of your spouse. At that point, you'll have a couple of choices to make. You can either pay off the account and close it, or you can ask them to change it to an individual account in your name only. You should be aware that changing the account to an individual one can trigger them to change the rate and terms.

If you are only an authorized user on your spouse's credit card, you don't have any obligation to pay the card off. It is just as though your spouse had an individual account. So, the same rules apply. In most cases the account will just be closed out and written off. You will no longer be able to use your authorized user card. You can, however, ask the company to send you a new card if you want to keep using it, but in that case, you'll need to pay off the balance. If you don't care to use the card, you should contact the company and inform them of your spouse's passing. Again, if they don't ask for payment, don't bring it up. Check the list above to see if you are in a community property state before you call. That way, you can be prepared for them to ask you to pay the balance.

If your spouse was a cosigner on someone else's credit card, you are not responsible for payments. The main account holder will now be entirely responsible for the debt. Again, you should contact the company to inform them of your spouse's passing, so his name will be removed from the account.

When informing the creditors of your spouse's death, you'll have to follow phone calls up with a letter. Many companies will require a death certificate. You'll have to mail out a copy to them and then they can take his name off the account or write the bill off. You should be sure to send the letter via certified mail to make sure it's received.

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