by Dan A. Baron, Baron Law LLC
You come home one day to find a letter from a credit card company. It demands an $80,000 debt incurred by your late husband. The credit card company demands payment and threatens to take legal action against you if you don’t pay. Don’t be afraid of these bullies. Here’s what you need to know.
First, the credit card company is correct in their efforts to collect a debt from the estate. Debts do not die with the deceased but instead are administered through the probate estate. However, creditors cannot hold family members personally responsible for these debts. Instead, in most cases, creditors may only assert claims against the estate. If the debts exceed the value of the estate, then the creditors may not come after family members.
Of course, there are exceptions. When dealing with the debt of a deceased person it’s important to consider whether you’re a co-signer on a note. Each account holder can be held legally responsible for an outstanding balance. Thus, if you co-signed for a mortgage or a car loan, you are still personally responsible for the debt. Using the example above, let’s say that you never used the credit card and all the purchases were your late husband’s. Unfortunately, if you co-signed the credit card application, then you’re still liable for the debts. This rule only applies to co-signers, not authorized users.
Know Your Rights
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