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My husband had 3 credit accounts. Not too high, and his small life insurance should cover it. However, I am not a co-signer on the accounts, and 2 he had before we were married. Am I legally bound to pay these accounts? Has anyone experienced this before? I got a letter from a debt collector today regarding on eof the accounts, addressed to his estate. However, I only informed them of the situation a week ago. He doesnt have an estate, and the life insurance already paid out to me. What do I do?

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Hi Karebare,

It all depends on what state you live in and whether its a "community property" state. It is my understanding that if it IS a community property state, his debt would be considered yours since you were married.

Unfortunately I think his insurance policy is part of his estate as well.

Again, I think this all depends on the laws of the state you live in.....your best bet would be to consult with an attorney familiar with these laws.

I wish I had a better answer for you!

Hugs,

Tammy

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Oregon is not a community property state and when George died, although he had a small insurance policy, the hospital bills came to much more than that and the sale of his car (I was on the title too and it had survivorship). I assumed I was liable for the bills because the hospital inferred that and they wanted to charge an astronomical amount for interest (I think it was 29%) so I mortgaged my house to pay it all off...I previously had my house title free and clear and had to mortgage it for $72,000. Now all these years later, my GF's husband passed away and she just returned the bills to sender. However, she gets social security, which they can't touch...me, I'm working, I wouldn't want my wages garnished, so I think she's in a better position. I wish now that I'd gotten legal advice before paying all that. I'm not sure they can touch the life insurance since it has a beneficiary, it's not just left to the estate, it's not like a bank account...but even a bank account, if it's joint and has survivorship, belongs to the person that's on the account. I would really consult an attorney in your state to find out what you are responsible for.

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Hi Karebare,

I am from Canada so not very familiar with US laws, but it appears that the community property states are Arizona, California, Idaho, Louisiana, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Washington and Wisconsin. I believe if you are from any of those states that you would be responsible only for the debt on a credit card that was incurred after you were married. As for the Life Insurance Policy, a policy can list the beneficiary as the estate, if that was the case then it would have to go into the estate, also it appears that if the deceased could have changed the beneficiary at any time on the policy then again it would go into the estate. If you were the beneficiary and the policy couldn't be changed then the proceeds wouldn't go into the estate. That is my understanding but like everyone else has said, it is probably wise to have legal advice. At this point in time I wouldn't be promising the credit card company any type of payment (even a small monthly payment) because you could possibly be creating a liability for the debt in doing so. I personally don't think you are responsible for a debt that was incurred before you were married. However, I am certainly not a lawyer and would seek advice before paying any amount. Just another thing to worry about, as if you need that....... Take care.

Sally

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My understanding is simply that Credit Cards are unsecured debts and therefore don't pay them and simply make it clear you are not paying them. Unless you are "jointly" signed on them, you should not be liable. Collectors usually get 50% of any debt collected so it is in their interest to intimidate and lie to get you to agree to pay - thus creating a new contract- one you would be liable to pay. Tell them you are not paying. They need to contact the Estate for payment, not you. Just be firm. They can ask, it doesn't mean they are legally entitled to collect. Call a debtor's assistance company in your area, they can probably confirm this for you. If you received life insurance as your husband's beneficiary it is money to you "outside of the estate" and doesn't form the "estate",they have no rights to it. At least that's how it is in Canada.

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