If a person is dead, who is responsible for their credit card debt incurred during the time they were alive? What if he was pronounced dead at 3:00 PM, and the purchase on their card happens (or get posted) 3:01 PM?

  • 17
    A country code would be useful as the laws may be different in different countries.
    – Victor
    Commented Jun 2, 2016 at 3:24
  • 1
    @Victor NY or NJ, United States Commented Jun 2, 2016 at 14:00

1 Answer 1


Unsecured debt, like credit card debt, will be paid by the estate. If not enough money exists in the estate (including selling property/etc.) to satisfy the debts, then the debt will be cancelled - it is not continued on to the heirs/etc.

However, if you have a joint card (with a spouse, parent, child, etc.), both holders of that card may be separately liable - meaning if one dies, the other will be liable for the debt if the first's estate doesn't pay it off.

As far as if a charge posts after the death - likely depends on if it was fraudulently used. If the person owning the card made the purchase and timing just was off, then it'll be just as if they paid beforehand. But, if the creditor can prove that someone else authorized the charge other than the decedent/cardholder, then that is a fraudulent act and could be met with criminal penalties as well as a civil lawsuit.

See this Bankrate article on inheritance and credit card debt for more information.

  • 15
    A postmortem charge also could be something automated. It also could be a company that charged the card only when the product shipped. I've had a charge from Amazon that showed up weeks after I placed a pre-order. Commented Jun 1, 2016 at 23:55
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    @WernerCD Not necessarily. You can have a joint account, or an account in one spouse's name that the other just gets a card to use - but the responsibility is solely one spouse's to pay. (Same in parent-child relationship.). With spouses you also may have community property play a role.
    – Joe
    Commented Jun 2, 2016 at 0:57
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    It occurs to me the authorized user is another possible explanation for a non-fraudulent postmortem charge. The card owner is away and in a situation where contact is not expected for a while. They come to misfortune on the trip. The authorized user who didn't go has no knowledge of their demise and uses the card normally. Commented Jun 2, 2016 at 5:58
  • 4
    Seems like someone toward the end of their life (age, cancer, etc) could give away all their assets, ruin their credit and max out their credit card debt before they die. S/he could possibly use cash advances and spend it freely.
    – Sun
    Commented Jun 2, 2016 at 14:33
  • 3
    @Sun That would certainly be fraud, then, and the recipients of those gifts might find themselves on the wrong end of civil suits to recover that money, as well as possibly criminal charges for being complicit with fraud (if they knew what the person was doing).
    – Joe
    Commented Jun 2, 2016 at 15:40

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