I live in NJ and my husband recently passed away. As his spouse, do I have to payoff his unsecured credit card debt? His estate consisted of one checking account with a couple hundred dollars in it. The house, cars, etc. we're only in my name. Some people say yes, others say no. I figured I would ask a NJ lawyer. Thank you.
2 Answers from Attorneys
the answer to this is surprisingly complex. the important question is what the credit card companies will do to collect the debt.
it is possible that they will come after you personally (not just his Estate), but I am not sure about that.
unfortunately, i have to tell you to sit down with a lawyer to get a good answer.
If the credit card is in you husband's name only, you are not personally liable on the debt. Only the assets of your husband's estate need to be used to pay. The assets are to be applied in a priority order that is specified by NJ law unless there is a will that has modified the order. That's the simple, text book answer. However, there are some circumstances in which a spouse is liable for debts for other reasons. Whatever your situation, it is not necessary for you to dip into your personal funds without being certain that you are liable on the debt. For that, you may need to speak with an lawyer in your area.
See also: http://info.corbettlaw.net/lawguru.htm