When googling for "debt prescription" I get a lot of hits in South Africa. Is it called something else in US English? And to the point, how does it work in America? Specifically contracts such as "When you deliver X to me, I pay you Y dollars" (with no date specified for the delivery).
"Prescription" in South Africa appears to mean that a debtor is no longer legally required to pay a debt. While there isn't a strong general concept for this in the US (that is, it doesn't have its own word that I know of), there are statutes of limitations imposed on the collection of debt. After this period a collector may still ask for payment (depends on the state) but cannot use the courts to collect a debt. Also if you tell them to stop contacting you, they probably have to comply. Statutes of limitations vary by state.
In Utah, your statute of limitations will be either 4 or 6 years, depending on the nature of the debt. However, if the creditor has obtained a court judgement against you, then there is a separate (longer) statute of limitations. In Utah it's 8 years.
Many things can reset your statute of limitations, such as acknowledging the debt, making a payment, or making any other agreement with the creditor.
Notice that having the debt legally non enforceable will not affect whether the credit ratings agencies retain the debt on your record.
Some debts also do not have statutes of limitations:
- Federal student loans
- Alimony or child support
- Taxes and government fines
Though there is a statute of limitations on when you can get your money back from the government if you overpay your taxes. Go figure!