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How credit card debt is handled at death

Arizona residents who've had a loved one pass away may be concerned about paying off any credit card debt left behind. Taking the time to understand how the law handles credit card debt might help clear up any confusion that can arise in such a situation. Determining how the accounts were set up can help determine who's responsible for paying the debt back.

This issue may be most pressing if someone is on the account with the deceased person. In many cases, an individual can be just an authorized user. These individuals are allowed to use the card, but the account remains entirely in the name of the person who owns the account. Authorized users have no obligation to pay a credit card company any debt owed by the account holder. On the other hand, if someone opened a credit card with with person as a joint account holder or co-signer of the card, they're responsible for paying the remaining balance of the card.

If there's uncertainty about what designation a person has regarding a specific account, the best way to determine it is to give the credit card company a call. They should be able to give the information quickly. It's also possible for an authorized user to ask to be taken off of the account at the time of the call.

It's important to remember that authorized users have no obligation to pay the balance of a credit card that's in someone else's name. However, a credit card company may try to intimidate someone not responsible for paying on an account into doing so. An attorney may be able to stop harassment from creditors trying to intimidate an authorized user into paying a credit card balance.

Source: Fox Business, "Is Daughter Liable for Shared Card Debt with Mom?", Erica Sandberg, August 08, 2013

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  • NACA | National Association of Consumer Advocates
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