Deceased Debtor’s Credit Card Account Responsibility


Deceased debtor's credit card account responsibility

Eye death (Photo credit: @Doug88888

When Credit Card Holder Dies

The question of a deceased debtor’s credit card account responsibility comes up often. A  review of the possible scenarios ahead of time should be helpful to people before they are vulnerable.  Emotional turmoil around the time of death of a loved one is not conducive to making a financial decision that is well thought out.

If Credit Card Debt in Name of Deceased only

Other than in a community property state, there is no responsibility for credit card debt of a deceased from family members.  In a community property state for the most part the spouse takes the bad with the good.  Legal advice is especially important in community property states. Community debt laws are complex and vary even among community property states.  With that exception in mind,  a credit card debt is simply a loan to a particular person.  If that person dies the lender is out of luck.  I am referring here to debt that is held in the name of the deceased only. If debt collector’s call tell them politely but firmly that they must not call anymore.  If they persist in calling tell them to stop in writing.  A written demand to stop calling or otherwise communicating is legally enforceable.  You don’t have to feel sorry for the creditor.  Death of some debtors is simply part of the ordinary cost of doing business.  You do not carry legal or moral responsibility for the debt

If the deceased has any appreciable assets those assets are transferred to a legal entity called an Estate.  Creditors then file claims against that estate.  These claims are assigned priorities according to each State’s probate law and paid accordingly.  The exact procedure to deal with a deceased debtor’s credit card account varies from State to State.  Payment of unsecured credit card debt is always at the bottom of the list of priorities.  The priorities of debt payment everywhere go something like this:

  1. Burial and Funeral expenses
  2. Medical bills related to the final illness
  3. Probate fees, attorney fees and death taxes
  4. Secured debt such as real estate and automobiles
  5. Unsecured debt such as credit cards if anything is left
  6. The remainder, if any, is distributed to the heirs

Joint Account Holder is Responsible for Deceased Debtor’s credit card account

In the case of a deceased debtor’s credit card account opened as a joint account, the surviving card holder has full responsibility for the entire debt.  In reality this can be grossly unfair in many cases.  There is no way to legally distinguish if the deceased party was using the card recklessly at the expense of the surviving party.  These are the things we should think about before opening joint accounts.

Authorized User not legally responsible for deceased debtor’s credit card account

An authorized user of a deceased debtor’s credit card account simply has access to the account in question.  No legal responsibility for payment goes along with that access.  Beware of the Credit Reporting Agencies.  In one of the most unfair practices of all they are allowed to mark your records with a negative notation regarding this failure to pay on the account on which you are an authorized user.  Even though the deceased debtor’s credit card account responsibility is not legally on you.






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After practicing law for 37 years Edward F. St. Onge, Sr. now devotes all his time to helping consumers achieve a high credit score with amazing speed. Learn the counter-intuitive secrets to credit scoring through his down to earth instructions backed by extensive knowledge of the laws and trends. All of the latest tricks and techniques that they don't want you to know now at your disposal. At last a level playing field for the consumer!

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