Is a wife liable for her deceased husband’s credit card debt?

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Is a wife liable for her deceased husband’s credit card debt?

My husband died leaving a credit card debt that I cannot pay. I was listed on it as a user. However, I don’t ever remember using it or signing a contract.

Asked on February 8, 2011 under Bankruptcy Law, Indiana

Answers:

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

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

Generally, the surviving spouse is not obligated to pay the bills of the deceased spouse. However, there are several exceptions to this rule. The first exception as to do with just where you live. If you live in a community property state, you would typically bear responsibility for such a debt; however IN 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.; but you that you don;t think that you did. The last exception falls under something called the "doctrine of necessities". This doctrine was established at common law. While many states no longer follow it, IN does.  Pursuant to it, one spouse is liable for the "necessary" expenses incurred by the other spouse during marriage.  So depending in the items charged on the card  (i.e. were they necessary expenses for the maintenance of the household), you may or may not bear liability for such debts.

Note: In the case of a deceased spouse, even in a situation that did not fall into one of the above exceptions, the deceased’s estate would still be liable for repayment; therefore, indirectly as surviving spouse could be affected financially.

At this point, you should consult with an attorney in your area.  They can best advise you of state law.


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