The death of the spouse is incredibly difficult time, and one in which you are decidedly less capable of handling complicated affairs. It’s unfortunate that creditors and debt collectors can send you letters demanding you take immediate action or making other declarations that make it sound as if you, personally, need to pay for your deceased spouse’s debt during your grieving time. While these letters may sound ominous, or even consoling in nature, you should never be persuaded to pay a debt obligation that you do not owe. Here’s what you need to know.
Joint Versus Individual Debt
While some couples have joint debts, such as joint mortgages or joint credit cards, they may also have individual obligations such as credit cards which are only in one spouse’s name. When an individual dies, his or her creditors may try to persuade the spouse to pay for the those individual debts, such as by saying it is the responsible thing for you to do. These attempts at persuasion are little more than harassment, and you are never obligated to pay for the individual debts a deceased spouse leaves behind.
Community Property Debt
The one the primary exception to the individual debt obligation rule is if you live in a community property state. In these states, spouses may be responsible for the debts of a deceased spouse. However, the obligation in the situation is not always clear, so you will need to speak to your lawyer before you make a decision or make any payments.