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The Only Three Situations Where You Can Be Responsible For A Family Member’s Credit Card Debt


Click on any advice column about family relationships, and you will find a lot of questions about relationships that have become strained because of money.  Family members shame each other about financial decisions of which they disapprove, and less wealthy relatives resent wealthier ones for not being more generous with them.  Most of the time, your family member’s eagerness to swipe the plastic or insert the chip does not directly affect your credit score.  There are only a few situations where you can legally be responsible for credit card debt incurred by someone else, almost always a close relative.  If credit card companies are contacting you in pursuit of debts that another member of your family racked up, contact a Miami debt lawyer.

Don’t Be Fooled by Those Puppy Dog Eyes

If you added a family member as an authorized user to your credit card account and they charged lots of expensive purchases, you have no one to blame but yourself.  When you add an authorized user, they get their own card, but the purchases they make with the card go to your account.  Paying off the purchases does not improve the authorized user’s credit score, and failing to make payments will not harm their credit score.  The entire responsibility for the debt belongs to you.  Adding a family member as an authorized user is the same as letting someone use your credit card.  If your spouse or young adult child asks you to add them as an authorized user, consider the effects it could have on your debt burden.

Divorcing Your Splurging Spouse Is Easier Than Divorcing Their Debt

Debt has been a factor in many people’s decision to divorce, but no matter how much you disapprove of your spouse using credit cards to buy things you can’t afford, your disapproval alone is not enough to stop the divorce court from holding you responsible for the debt.  The court considers all debts incurred during the marriage marital debts, regardless of whose name is on the loan agreement.  If you and your spouse are joint borrowers (meaning that both your names are on the credit card account), or even if the credit card belongs only to your spouse, the court could require you to pay a portion of the debt.  Florida is an equitable distribution state, which means that the court considers each couple’s financial situation on an individual basis when deciding how to divide marital assets and marital debts.

Inherited Debt: The Gift That Keeps on Giving

Most of the time, when a person who owes money on a credit card bill dies, their family does not inherit the debt.  The credit card company can make a claim to the money during probate, but once the estate settles, the credit card company no longer has a chance to pursue the debt.  The only exception is if you and the decedent were joint borrowers, meaning that both of your names were on the account.  (If you were only an authorized user, you do not inherit the debt.)

Don’t Let Your Debt Become Your Family’s Problem

A debt attorney can help you tackle your debt before it becomes a problem that passes on to the next generation.  Contact Nowack & Olson, PLLC for more information.


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