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My Husband Died With Debt in His Name. Do I Have to Pay It? – Teresa

“Dear Steve,

Married 25 yrs. & my husband always paid the bills, he died on 25 Apr.2010. I live in Ca., no life ins., he was unemployed for over 1 yr. Our house is almost in foreclousure, & I’m trying to catch up on the payments right now, so that I’m not out looking for an extra lg. cardboard box to call home. Needless to say I am not prepared to pay his credit card bills, that I just found out about. They were in his name only & I was not a signer on the acct. Am I responsible? As soon as I have the house payments current I plan on filing chapter 7.

This is a 2 part ? (1.) My husband died & he had credit cards ($23,000.) only in his name & I’m not listed as a signer. Am I required by Ca. law to pay them? (2) Right now I’ve got a garnishment on my paycheck from a debt collector who didn’t even bother serving me papers for court until the judgement was granted. I owed 3500.00 to orgin. creditor & G.C.F.S were granted 10,700.00 that I’m paying, they have collected 10,302.00. I contacted the sheriff & they said I still owe 2,500.00, How can that be? And is there a fast way to get them to stop now? I even have the irs billing me because he didn’t take taxes out of his unemployment.


Dear Teresa,

The issue here that complicates the situation is that you live in California, which is a community property state. It is my understanding that in California you may be held jointly liable for debt incurred by either partner during the marriage.

The bottom line here is you should not rely on what anyone has to say about this, including myself. Find a local attorney and ask them about the status of his debt. Community property states make a clear answer very muddy.

READ  My Father Died and My Mother is Struggling With Debt. - Kim

If it turns out you would be responsible for his debt, talk to your bankruptcy attorney about resolving it in the bankruptcy. And the sooner you file bankruptcy, the better. At least the bankruptcy would terminate the wage garnishment.

You can click here to find a local bankruptcy attorney if you don’t have one. You should not have to wait till your mortgage is current to do so.

Please update me on your progress by posting updates here in the comments section of your question. I’m very interested in how this works out for you.


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About the author

Steve Rhode

Steve Rhode is the Get Out of Debt Guy and has been helping good people with bad debt problems since 1994. You can learn more about Steve, here.


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