Credit Card Rights When a Cardholder Dies

Written by roger thorne
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Credit Card Rights When a Cardholder Dies
Joint credit card holders are accountable for each other's debts. (pen over credit card image by PaulPaladin from Fotolia.com)

When a credit card user dies, what happens to the credit card and the debts incurred on the account differs depending on the circumstances of the credit card agreement. Though a person who used a deceased person's credit card may still be able to use the card after the card holder dies, this is not always the case.

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Joint Accounts

If you have a joint credit card with a cardholder who dies, you still have the right to use the card. For example, if you and your spouse had a joint card and you die, your spouse can continue to use the card without any problems. Your spouse will also be responsible for any charges you made with the card while you were alive as well as any he's made.

Authorised Users

Some credit card holders, especially married couples, have individual accounts but still allow their spouses to use the card by adding the spouse as an authorised user. If, for example, your husband lists you on his credit card as an authorised user, you can use the card just as he would. However, you cannot use the card after the account holder dies. If you are an authorised user, the card is not legally yours, and you cannot keep the account open.

Debt Obligations

If you don't have a joint account with the deceased card holder, you are generally not responsible for the credit card debts. The credit card company has to try to get the debt paid by the deceased's estate. The estate, that property the deceased leaves behind, will pay off all creditors using estate property. If there isn't enough property to pay the creditors, the card company has no way to recover the debt.

Community Debt Obligations

If your spouse dies with credit card debt, the credit card company can usually only try to get the debt paid by collecting money from your spouse's estate. However, if you live in a state where there are community property laws, you may be responsible for your spouse's credit card debts. This means a creditor might be able to file a lawsuit against you and try to collect money for the deceased spouse's account if you don't pay it.

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