If I die with credit card debt will my wife be responsible for it?

UPDATED: Aug 30, 2012

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If I die with credit card debt will my wife be responsible for it?

The debt that is my name only.

Asked on August 30, 2012 under Bankruptcy Law, Pennsylvania


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

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

Generally speaking, a surviving spouse is not obligated to pay the debts of a deceased spouse. However, several exceptions to this rule exist. The first has to do with where the spouse lives. If they live in a community property state, they would typically bear responsibility for such a debt (FL is not such a state). The second would be if you signed (or in some other way) agreed to be legally bound for re-payments on the debt (you did not indicate this to be the case). The third and last exception falls under something known as the "doctrine of necessities". Pursuant to it, a surviving spouse is liable for the "necessary" expenses incurred by their deceased spouse during marriage.  Therefore, depending on the items charged on the card (i.e. were they necessary expenses for the maintenance of the household, etc), a spouse could bear liability for such debts (my research indicates however that FL no longer follows this doctrine).

Note: However, your late spouse's estate would still be liable for repayment. Consequently, you could indirectly be affected financially.

To be certain of your rights under exisiting state law, 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 AttorneyPages.com 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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