My Father Passed Away. My Mother Was Only an Authorized User. – JB

“Dear Steve,

Recent widow as authorized user and credit card debt.

My father passed away a couple weeks ago and I have been trying to help my mom with her finances. As I’m sure you know, she lost a SS check so now she is trying to work through her budget. My father and she had two credit cards which she was authorized user but not a joint holder. I understand that because of this, she technically is not liable for the charges on the card. But, she did make a lot of those charges as an authorized user (and the cc company would have a record of that). If she does not pay that debt, is that opening her up to possible negatives on her credit report and/or issues with creditors? I’m just trying to give her the best advice so her credit isn’t negatively impacted. I’m afraid the cc companies will sue her or send the balances to a collection agency and “come after her” for not paying the bills.

What’s also upsetting is the company has been calling her and trying to get her to transfer over the amounts into her name without telling her that she’s legally not liable for the amounts anymore.

Any advice you can provide would be appreciated.


PS She does not live in a community property state.”

Dear Jennifer,

I’m so sorry to hear of the passing of your father.

But I think this can be dealt with. Make sure your mother is no longer using those cards, AT ALL.

Do You Have a Question You'd Like Help With? Contact Debt Coach Damon Day. Click here to reach Damon.

Get some additional official copies of the death certificate, not photocopies. Send each creditor a copy of the death certificate and a letter identifying the account number and advise the creditor he has passed.

Send your letter by some traceable means, like FedEx or mail then certified, return receipt requested. Keep the documentation of delivery in a safe place in case you need it later.

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The creditors will have to look at his estate for payment and not to your mother directly.

If you follow these instructions that should get the ball rolling.

You may also want to read, Widow or Widower: How to Handle the Bills After the Death of a Loved One. It has some additional tips in it as well.

Please post your responses and follow-up messages to me on this in the comments section below.

Damon Day - Pro Debt Coach

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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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