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Is Widow Liable for Late Husband's Credit Cards?

Question: My husband died and he had a lot of credit cards. I did not know he had them. Do I have to pay them?

Answer: No. Only his estate, if he had enough money to open one, is liable.

Attempts are often made to put relative’s names on accounts or to collect from relatives. Such efforts are illegal under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.

Sometimes credit card companies claim that a spouse is liable under the Illinois Family Expense Act. It is questionable if this applies to bank credit, as opposed to credit extended by the actual seller. In any event, the federal Equal Credit Opportunity Act allows one spouse to contract for credit without the involvement of the other spouse, and takes precedence over state law.

Send each creditor a letter stating that the cardholder died and whether there is an estate. State that you do not wish to be contacted. Do not continue using any of his cards. Keep a copy of the letter and if possible send the letter by means providing proof of receipt (fax, certified, etc.).

Obtain all 3 of your credit reports and check if his cards or debts appear for any reason. If you are an authorized user on any of the accounts but not a cardholder, it may appear until you request removal by letter to the credit bureaus.

We can help you both defend claims against you and assert your rights under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act and other laws.