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Can I Be Sued for the Credit Card Debt of Someone Who Died

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One of the more frequent questions we get is whether you can be sued for the credit card debts of a family member who has passed away.  Sometimes this question arises because a debt collector has contacted the husband or wife of a person who passed away and has insisted they are responsible for their loved one’s credit card bills.

In most cases, you are NOT responsible for the credit card debts of your relative who passed away unless you were on the account or were a co-signer for that account.  This usually means that if you were responsible for that debt before they passed away, you may continue to be held responsible.  However, if you were not on the account and were not a co-signer, you are not generally responsible for continuing to make any payments.  In such a case, the debt collector cannot sue you because you did not enter into a contract for that credit card or its terms and conditions.

We have heard of numerous debt collectors telling consumers that they are responsible for their loved one’s credit card debts.  In many cases, they are simply not telling the truth.  In fact, by threatening legal action against you for your relative’s debts when you do not owe them, you may have a valid lawsuit against them for violating the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.

If you are not responsible, then the only way the debt collector can recover its debt is to file a claim against the estate of your loved one who passed away.  If no probate estate has been opened, they will usually need to hire an attorney to open up such an estate.  They rarely do so, for three primary reasons.  First, it costs them money to hire an attorney and to open up a probate estate.  Second, there is no assurance that the probate estate even has any money in it to pay on the alleged debt; if not, they will have wasted their money.  Third, there is no assurance they can win their lawsuit, particularly if the credit card lawsuit is defended by an experienced consumer protection attorney.

The bottom line is this: don’t let the debt collectors prey upon you at a time when you are emotionally and financially vulnerable.  If you receive a phone call claiming you are responsible for the credit card debt of a loved one who passed away, contact a consumer justice attorney experienced in defending credit card lawsuits to determine your rights.