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Liability for Spouse's Bills

Question: If my wife and I have separate credit cards and either of us should die, would we be responsible to pay off remaining debt?

Answer: Probably not. Illinois has a Family Expense statute, under which one spouse is liable for necessary expenses of the family. It is unclear if this applies to a general purpose credit card at all, as opposed to a merchant providing goods or services. Furthermore, under the federal Equal Credit Opportunity Act, each spouse has the right to obtain credit on their own without the involvement of the other spouse. According to the Federal Reserve Board, the ECOA preempts application of state family expense statutes to such debts.

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