My husband died without a will. His credit union made me get a small estate form to pay the funeral home and monument. they will not release the money in his account to me and credit card companies and hospital bills are arriving every day. Am I responsible for paying his credit cards as my name is not on them?
2 Answers from Attorneys
I am sorry for your loss. The credit union should accept a revised Small Estate Affidavit from you in which you list the bills outstanding. In theory, you should be able to assume the responsibility for paying the creditors, but often banks and such insist on paying out directly, in which event you need to be careful, you need to be sure something isn't going to show up after some time passes with payments already having been made.
You, personally, are not responsible to pay your husband's separate bills from your assets, including assets that became yours by virtue of joint ownership. You are responsible, however, to pay his bills from any estate assets. The medical bills, unfortunately, qualify as a family expense, so you would have responsibility to the extent the estate cannot pay them. If the credit cards are solely in his name, however, they generally are not your responsibility, only the estate's responsibility (unless the creditor can show that they were used for purchases that qualify as family expenses (e.g., medical bills, utilities, groceries, but rarely would you see that pursued). You do need to be careful as the creditors should be paid pro rata. You do not want to mishandled and end up becoming responsible for more than you should.
Advise creditors that there may not be enough to pay all debts and that you cannot disburse the funds that are available until the entire picture is revealed.
I agree with Mr. Repay - the credit union is entitled to know that you are entitled to your husband's money. That means, unfortunately, probate.....