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Credit card debt may be a problem when the card holder dies

When a Pennsylvania resident dies, their heirs may wonder who inherits what. A will generally disposes of the deceased's assets. However, these documents are often silent on who inherits the debts, including credit card debt.

In most instances, heirs do not have to pay a deceased person's credit card debt. Instead, the debt holder writes it off. One exception is when the survivor is a co-signer or on a joint account with the deceased person. Authorized users on an account generally do not have to pay off the card debt. Another exception is if the heir and the spouse live in a community property state. However, the spouse would not be liable for any credit card debt incurred before the marriage. Pennsylvania is not a community property state.

Joint account holders need to send certified copies of the death certificate, as well as other documents the issuer may require, to holders of credit card debt. Estate executors can also request credit reports on the deceased by sending copies of the death certificate to the major credit bureaus. The credit bureaus can update their files and prevent crooks from trying to obtain credit in the deceased person's name.

Even if the heir is not a joint account holder, collection agencies may still try to get the heirs to pay the credit card debt. Persistent collection efforts should be reported to the Pennsylvania attorney general's office.

Dealing with the paperwork after a loved one's death can be difficult. Estate administration can be complicated, especially if the deceased's estate is large or the executor has not gone through the process before. An estate planning attorney may be able to help with the process.

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