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In an interview with CreditCards.com, Gary Altman, advises against joint credit card accounts and even against spouses taking authorized user cards on each others' accounts. "From an estate perspective, joint credit implies a 100 percent obligation of the surviving spouse for any debt remaining on a joint card. And if a spouse has access to a deceased spouse's account through an 'additional card' offer, the credit card issuer may try harder -- particularly in these times -- to see if that person can be made liable for any outstanding debt on the deceased's card."
Altman goes on explain that in most states, the responsibility for paying off outstanding debt on a deceased's individual debt falls to the deceased's estate. Altman says. "Depending on the state, there are guidelines on how creditors get paid. In Maryland, credit card companies need to file a claim against the estate within six months. While the executor is supposed to notify them, there's no legal requirement to do it."
Altman says the current economic climate also plays a role as credit card issuers have gotten much better about combing death records and making those estate claims. "I've seen a claim happen for as low as $132," he said.