What to do about the credit card debt of a deceased spouse?

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What to do about the credit card debt of a deceased spouse?

My mother recently passed away and she had a 12k balance and at a very high interest rate of 26%. My father was not on the account and was unaware of the balance until now. My mom’s death was unexpected and the medical bills were huge so my father has more bills then money. He notified the credit card company and they gave him 3 choices: Take over the debt at the exisitng rate of interest; take over debt at 0%  interest and monthly payments of 2% of the balance until it is paid off; or let the debt go to settlement the department and they can work a settlement out, however, not sure what that would be and once offered the other 2 options end. 

Asked on January 31, 2011 under Estate Planning, Wisconsin

Answers:

M.T.G., Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

I am so sorry for your loss.  Generally speaking, if your father was not on the original credit card agreement that your Mother signed - in other words he did not open the account with her - then he is not responsible for the credit card debt upon her death.  This is true even if he was an additional card holder on the account.  So please, do not let the credit card company bully him in any way to pay it off at this time. Technically your Mother's estate is responsible for the debt.  But if all assets were jointly held then they passed to your Father by what is called "operation of law" when she passed on and there is no real estate to speak of.  If the credit card company continues to call and ask to settle the debt ask them to send a copy of the original agreement evidencing his signature.  And then get some legal help with all of this.  Good luck.


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