Q. My husband recently passed away. I was wondering if I am responsible for his credit card debt? I am not a co-signor on any of the credit cards. They were solely his. Can the collectors come after me? I live in Utah.
A. First of all, my sincere condolences on your husband’s passing. I know that the last thing you want to think about is money, but bill collectors will come knocking no matter what the circumstances.
In a community property state, husbands and wives count both income and debts acquired during marriage as joint. Utah is not a community property state, so if your name is not on the credit cards, you are not liable for these debts.
However, your husband’s estate could be liable for his outstanding debt. If the estate goes through probate, the executor of the estate will look at your husband’s assets and debts and determine in what order bills should be paid. Remaining assets will be distributed to heirs by following his will (if he had one), or state law (if he didn’t).
Despite the fact that you are not liable, this will not stop some bill collectors from calling – a company may take a “it never hurts to ask” philosophy. In addition, once the debt is charged off by the credit card company, it is not unheard of for credit card companies to sell off debts of the deceased to collection agencies.
If you are contacted by the credit card company about your husband’s debt, you can politely tell them that the cards were in your husband’s name only and he left no estate. They should leave you alone. If you are contacted by a collection agency for the debt, it’s time to notify your state attorney general about the debt collector – this is strictly illegal.