When a loved on dies, the family that the deceased leaves behind is left to handle both the grief and potentially the deceased credit card debt. Many times a death leaves more questions than answers, and these questions can involve the estate of the deceased, and whether or not the person who died had a life insurance policy, as well as the debt the deceased has left behind. One of the many debts that most people have is credit card debt. This could be a minimal debt or it could be a massive debt. Your responsibility, as the spouse of the deceased, will depend on many factors.
Will You Have to Pay off Your Spouse’s Credit Card Debt?
The answer to this important question is based on two different things. Firstly, and most importantly, is your name on the debt? The bottom line for credit card debt is that generally the only responsible party for the debt is the person whose name is on the debt. If you do not have a joint account, then in most cases you will not be responsible for the debt at all. However, there is an exception to this rule, and that depends on where you live.
There are some states, called community property states, in which you may be responsible for your spouse’s debts regardless of whose name is on the debt. In these states, all property is considered equally owned, regardless of whose name is on the debt. These are also the states where, if a divorce occurs, all of the owned property is split down the middle, regardless of contribution in a marriage.
These are the states that are community property states in which you might be responsible for your spouse’s credit card debt: Arizona, California, Idaho, Louisiana, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Washington, and Wisconsin. If you live in any of these states, you should check the state’s laws regarding credit card debt.
What to be Aware of Regarding Your Spouse’s Credit Card Debt
When your spouse dies, the last thing that you will want to think about is his or her credit card debt. However, credit card companies are going to expect you to pay your bills, regardless of your spouse’s situation. If you have a joint account with your spouse, then you will need to continue to pay your bills as normal. If you do not share an account, then you will want to contact the credit card companies to inform them of your spouse’s death. If you feel that you cannot handle this chore, then ask a family member to help you go through your records and contact these companies for you. In most cases, you will be required to provide a death certificate to the credit card companies.
Something that you have to be aware of is that credit card companies may try to collect the debt from you regardless of whether you owe or not. This tactic may take one of two different forms. Firstly, they may simply continue to send you bills, then late notices and so on in an effort to collect your spouse’s debt. You are not required to pay these bills and you can send a letter in writing demanding that they stop sending mail to your home. You may also want to contact them again and send them another copy of your spouse’s death certificate in case their death was not noted in the system. If the notices are coming in your name, notify them of your demand that they stop contacting you. If they continue and they become a nuisance, then you can contact the Federal Trade Commission or have a lawyer handle if for you.
Another method that a creditor might use to get you to pay your spouse’s debt is to ‘trick’ you into accepting their debt. How this occurs is that the credit card companies send you new credit cards in your name with an agreement that states that you are accepting your new credit card with your spouse’s debt on it. Many people do not read the fine print when they receive a new credit card and often sign the agreement without reading it through. The debt is then transferred to you and you are legally responsible for it. You must understand that this is a legal practice and if you sign the paperwork then you will have to pay the debt or have your credit suffer for not paying the debt. If your spouse dies, do not accept any credit cards that you have not personally applied for.
What to do With the Debt that you are Responsible for
Perhaps one of the most upsetting situations for a person who has lost their spouse is to learn that they have additional debt that they must figure out how to pay for. However, this does not have to be the end of the world; you have enough on your plate without worrying about paying new bills. You should take the time to contact the credit card companies, let them know about the debts that you were not aware of, and ask them to allow you an approved extension on the debt until you get your spouse’s estate in order.
Credit card companies are businesses and simply want to ensure that the debts that they are owed get paid. Some credit card companies will work with you, and some will not, so you will have to plan accordingly.
One option for paying off some immediate debt is to get a loan for this debt. How feasible this is will depend on your credit, your current debt, how much money you make and how much you will need to borrow. If your spouse has a life insurance policy and it will be enough to cover the debt, you can typically get a loan with the life insurance policy as collateral. While this may not be something you want to think about immediately, it is important to understand that these things do not go away when someone dies.
The second option that you have is to find a credit card that will allow you to transfer the existing debt to the card. The benefit to this option is that if you have good credit score you can get a card (or two if necessary) with a low or no interest rate introductory period that will allow you to get control of the debt quickly. Again, if there is enough of a life insurance policy, then you can pay off the debt once it comes in; if there is not enough insurance, then you have your new debt in a more controlled situation that will be easier to pay off.
If you choose to get a new credit card, then you take advantage of our free credit card chaser tool. From balance transfer credit cards to low interest credit cards to all kinds of credit cards this free, no obligation tool, gives you the opportunity to find the right credit card for your situation. Filling out a single form will provide you with credit card results from many different credit card issuers. Get started finding the best credit cards now!
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