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

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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

Answers:

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

Answered 9 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.


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