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Death is a difficult subject to talk about, but credit card debt after death can be even more challenging for families. But, just like creating a plan for how your assets will be handled (like bank accounts, home, cars), it’s also important to plan for how your debt will be handled in the event of your death. Many people don’t know what happens with credit card debt when someone dies, and several misconceptions can lead them to make the wrong decisions—which could leave their families handling large bills on top of their grief. 

In this article, we’ll discuss some of the biggest considerations and questions around “debt after death” to help you make a plan that could minimize the amount of debt that could be passed on to your loved ones.

First, what terms are important to know?

Credit Card Debt

The balances accumulated on credit cards are considered “credit card debt.” Credit cards can be great for upfront purchases and making deferred payments, but these balances can also carry high-interest rates.


A debtor is a person who has borrowed money and is expected to pay it back. For credit card debt, the debtor is the person listed as the account holder.


A creditor is a person, company, or bank that has debt owed to them, including credit cards and loans. After a death, creditors have the right to reclaim the debts owed to them by liquidating the estate of the deceased. To learn more about what creditors can claim and what they can’t, read this article


The executor is someone that the person who passed away has appointed in their will be responsible for resolving any outstanding liabilities using the assets in the asset to settle these debts. If someone does not have a will created, the court will appoint an executor. 


A cosigner is someone who agrees to be responsible for debt incurred by another person, including credit cards and other types of loans. A cosigner contractually assumes liability concerning any debts not paid back on time or repaid before their due date.


A will is a legal document that tells the executor what to do with an individual’s estate after death. It can also speak to your wishes for any children that you have and who should be in charge of their care.


An estate includes finances (money or debt), property, or other assets that an individual leaves behind at the time of death.

What Happens When Someone Dies and Has Credit Card Debt? 

When a loved one dies and has individual credit card debt, the debt will be left to their estate. This means that any assets (like homes or cars) in the estate can be liquidated to pay creditors after any already liquid assets have been used to pay off debts. If there are not enough assets in the estate to cover the outstanding debt, credit card debt after death may not get paid off, and it could become a burden for any cosigners or reduce the inheritance that an individual will receive from the estate.

The best way to plan for credit card debt in the event of death is to be proactive—if you feel like you’re accumulating too much debt, debt relief could be a good option for you. Resolving debts sooner rather than later could save you and your loved ones money, time, and stress.

Who Should Take Care of Paying Off Loved One’s Debts?

Determining who should pay off a loved one’s debts depends on your situation. There are some cases where credit card debt after death is taken care of automatically (forgiven), and others where credit card debt after death may need to be paid. In general, the executor of the will is in charge of resolving any outstanding debts after death.

How To Know if Your Loved One Has Credit Card Debt 

The easiest way to figure out credit card debt after death is to check the person’s credit report. You can do this by searching for credit card debt on the credit report and seeing if any credit cards have an outstanding balance. If you find no credit cards listed, then your loved one did not carry credit card debt after death.

The Importance of Having a Will

One way that you can make sure there is no confusion about who is responsible for handling your debt is to have a will. In the will, you can specify an executor who will be in charge of dealing with your estate, including resolving any credit card debt after death.

Ways to Reduce or Eliminate Your Credit Card Debt Before You Die

None of us like to think about death, but the truth is tomorrow isn’t guaranteed for any of us. So, it’s best to have a plan in place sooner rather than later, especially for stickier issues like debt.

Reducing or eliminating your credit card debt before you die can help prevent transferring the burden to your family. Your solution for getting rid of debt can depend on your financial situation. If you have a small amount of debt, the funds from your estate might cover the outstanding amount. However, if you’re currently struggling with debt or feel like your estate might not cover what you owe in the event of your passing, you would likely benefit from debt relief. There are a few different methods of debt relief and they each have their own benefits. Learn more about different debt relief programs in this article.

Debt settlement is one common form of debt relief and it could help reduce what you owe by up to half or more. For most people, this is also a quicker form of debt relief, helping them become debt-free in as little as 24 months. Read more about how debt settlement works here. 

How to Protect Your Estate from Creditors and Lawsuits

If you’re getting calls from lawyers or creditors, we recommend consulting with a certified debt specialist. These specialists can use their experience and leverage with creditors to negotiate on your behalf. Reputable debt relief companies will provide free evaluations upfront to see how they can help your situation.

How Can CreditAssociates Help?

CreditAssociates can help put you on the path to financial freedom today. By enrolling in our debt settlement program, we could help you resolve your debts for less than you owe—providing you with an affordable monthly payment plan now and helping prevent the risk of leaving loved ones with large sums of debt in the event of your passing. Why wait? Get your free debt evaluation from our certified debt consultants today. Click here or call 1-800-983-6693 to learn more. 

Credit Card Debt After Death FAQs

Should I cancel a deceased person’s credit cards?

It is essential to cancel a deceased person’s credit cards because keeping them open can lead to credit card scams that could potentially put you on the hook for credit card debt if you are listed as a cosigner on the account.

What should I do if I am an executor of an estate and there is a lot of outstanding debt? 

If you’re the executor of an estate and there is a lot of outstanding debt, you are responsible for liquidating any assets and paying off that debt. This means that you’ll need to identify all assets and their value, determine the best way to sell those, and use the proceeds to pay back any debt. If the liquidated assets do not cover the full amount of outstanding debt, you will be responsible for resolving the remaining amount using the deceased’s estate.

Does credit card debt go away when you die?

Unfortunately, credit card debt does not just go away when a person dies. In most cases, the deceased person’s assets will be liquidated to pay off their debt. However, there are situations where the value of the assets might not be enough to cover the outstanding debts. In this scenario, you might be responsible for your loved ones’ debts if you are a cosigner on credit cards or loans.

What debts are forgiven at death?

Most debts are not forgiven at death. Federal student loans are one example of a debt that is forgiven. However, this only applies to federal student loans and not necessarily private student loans. 

How long can creditors go after an estate?

Typically creditors will have 3–6 months in most states to go after an estate to get repaid. The executor must post a notice of the death so creditors can file a claim for any debts they are owed.