What happens to my credit card debt if I die?
Dealing with the death of a family member is difficult enough. Depending on whether or not the deceased had a will, close family members could spend months in probate as the court decides who the rightful heirs to the estate are. Unfortunately, along with the will also come creditors. If there were any property or vehicles in which the deceased still owed on, they may have rights to any money that was left behind. Credit card debt is similar to other kinds of debt and they may also be able to collect debt from the estate or other sources in the event that the balances are left unpaid. The following article is intended to help people understand what happens to credit card debt if they die.
Like any other business, credit card companies are in business to make money. So, if a card holder becomes deceased and there are still balances on the credit cards, they will try to collect the money owed from other sources. These are some of the options Credit card companies have in which to collect debt if the card holder dies.
Marriage is a binding contract in more ways than many people realize. Any debt that the deceased person has attained, especially if the debt was attained after the contract of the marriage had become binding automatically becomes the responsibility of both parties on the marriage certificate. If you are married, it is important for both parties to understand that they will be responsible for all debt, including credit cards held on a joint account, if the other person dies. However, if the deceased is the only person on the credit card, the spouse may not be responsible for the debt, though the estate may be.
Many people don't realize that there is a lot more responsibility involved in cosigning than just signing some paperwork so a friend or loved one can establish credit. If the debt is left unpaid at any time, the cosigner will be held liable for the remaining balance. Unfortunately, this also includes when a person dies. Any time you cosign for another person you should be ready and willing to take over the payments for the debt until it is paid in full if the person you cosign for cannot make the payments for any reason.
A person's estate is the primary source most creditors use to collect debt after a person dies. Unless a person's estate is set up in a trust, the estate's assets will be sold to pay the bills before any money is distributed among the survivors. If the account was joint and there is till money owed after the estate's assets have been sold off, the other party will still be held liable for the remaining balance. However, if the account was held by the deceased alone, the credit card company will have to eat the loss once the estate has run out of assets.
As mentioned before, even if the spouse is not responsible for the debt, the estate may be. Well, at least half of the estate anyway. This could lead to some tricky situations regarding how the debt can be recovered and varies by state. Married couples need to be informed on their state's laws regarding debt collection after the death of a spouse.
Don't let credit card companies fool you. After the death of a loved one, they will try to collect debt from the deceased's family members. While it is not illegal for creditors to attempt to collect a debt from a deceased person's surviving family members, they cannot force them to. If a credit card company sends you a bill, simply mail them a copy of the death certificate and a short letter explaining that you are not responsible for the money owed.
Community Property Laws
Depending on the state in which the deceased lived in, the heirs to their estate could be held liable for their remaining debt after they die. It is important to find out if the state you live in has community family property laws or joint and several provisions for estates. In both these cases, the heirs to the estate will be responsible for paying off the deceased debts when they stake a claim in the estates assets after the death. It is important to note that this does not mean that the family members will be responsible, only the listed heirs to the estate; which can include friends, family and acquaintances.
Dealing with any kind of debt can be very stressful for the deceased's survivors. Unfortunately, there is no way of getting around the fact that when a family member dies, especially one in which the survivor had close ties with, will likely have to speak with credit card companies over remaining debt a number of times after the death before the situation is finally resolved. Knowing the laws regarding credit card debt can make dealing with the situation much easier and hopefully allow the process to end more quickly.
About the Author:
Paul Basco Provides Expert opinions and reviews to help you Compare and Apply for a Credit Card Offers online. At GettintingaCreditCard.com, we offer credit cards for bad credit, low apr credit cards, instant approval credit cards and much more.
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