Am I responsible for my deceased wife’s credit card debt?

UPDATED: Sep 16, 2011

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Am I responsible for my deceased wife’s credit card debt?

My wife recently passed away and had some credit cards in her name only. I am responsible for this debt? One possible complication is that our house was in her name only and she had no will. If I understand correctly SC law states that the house will automatically go to me. But, I thought that credit card debt had to be collected from the deceased person’s estate?

Asked on September 16, 2011 under Bankruptcy Law, South Carolina


M.D., Member, California and New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

As a general rule, a surviving spouse is not obligated to pay the bills of a deceased spouse. There are, however, several exceptions to this rule. The first exception as to do with where you live. If you live in a community property state, you would typically bear responsibility for such a debt; SC is not such a state. The second exception would be if you signed (or in some other way) agreed to be legally bound for re-payments on the debt; you did not. The last exception falls under something called the "doctrine of necessities". Pursuant to it, one spouse is liable for the "necessary" expenses incurred by the other spouse during marriage.  So depending on the items charged on the card  (i.e. were they necessary expenses for the maintenance of the household), a spouse could bear liability for such debts; my research indicates however that SC does not follow this doctrine or have any applicable statute covering this.

Note: Your are correct in that the estate would still be liable for repayment; therefore, indirectly you could be affected financially.

At this point, you should consult directly with an attorney in your area.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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