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What Happens to Credit Card Debt When You Die?

Last Updated: September 28, 2023
3 min read

Key points about: Credit card debt after death

  1. Credit card debt becomes your estate’s responsibility after you die.

  2. The surviving spouse or the executor of the estate should contact the credit card issuer as soon as possible after a cardmember has passed away.

  3. Discover® Deceased Account Services Specialists will work with you to close a deceased person’s account.

If you’re responsible for the finances of someone who has died, it’s important to understand their financial standing and debts. Let’s review what happens to credit card debt after death, and how Discover helps you close the deceased person’s credit card account.

Credit card debt doesn't go away after you die

Credit card debt doesn’t simply go away when a person has died. The debt is usually paid off through the decedent’s estate assets.

Typically speaking, relatives won’t have to pay off a decedent’s credit card debt. Circumstances where a spouse or family member may be responsible for the debt include:

  • They were joint account owners.

  • If they cosigned for a credit card.

  • They live in one of nine community property states: California, Arizona, Idaho, Louisiana, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Washington, or Wisconsin.

  • Your state has statutes that require payment of a debt.

Here are some common terms that may help you understand what happens to credit card debt when someone dies.

  • Probate: Probate is the common legal term for the handling of a decedent’s affairs. Probate laws vary from state to state. You should contact an attorney or probate court for more information.
  • Estate: Estate refers to the assets and liabilities left by someone upon their passing.
  • Executor: An executor is someone who is appointed by a will or a court to resolve the financial affairs of the estate.

Cancelling a credit card after the cardholder’s death

Here are two tasks to complete when a credit cardmember has died.

  • Stop all use of the credit card(s). Credit cards are no longer valid when the sole primary cardmember has passed away. They should not be used by you, other family members, or anyone else you know, even if it’s for a seemingly legitimate purpose, like paying for funeral costs. If you’re an authorized user on the account, your credit cards are no longer active and should be shredded or cut up and properly disposed.
  • Notify the credit card issuer of the death. If the primary cardmember has died, their spouse or the executor of the estate should notify the credit card company as soon as possible to close the account. This can help prevent unintentional use of the card.

Did you know?

When someone passes away, contacting a credit card company to cancel their card can easily be forgotten. But failing to do so could cause a number of problems, including leaving the deceased’s credit card account susceptible to identity theft.

How to notify Discover when a cardmember has died

Our Deceased Account Services Specialists will work with you to finalize the account. They can be reached directly at 1-800-347-5519.

Discover Deceased Account Services department handles the process of closing an account upon notification that one of our valued customers has passed away. We are committed to managing the process with the utmost sensitivity and care and are here to assist you with your questions and needs.

We understand this may be a very difficult time for you. We want you to know that our priority is to assist you in any way we can.

Do you need to send Discover a death certificate?

No. Upon notification, Discover will verify the information. If the cardmember had a death benefit, the insurance claim processor may require the death certificate to process the claim.

What should you do with their credit card?

The card is no longer active and should be shredded or cut up and properly disposed.

How do you stop new credit card charges?

Upon notification, the card is no longer active. This prevents most new charges. If there were previous recurring charges, you need to contact the merchant to stop these charges. Their contact information is normally found on an itemized statement. Otherwise, you can dispute any charges on the account once they have posted on Account Center or over the phone with one of our customer service agents.

If you have a joint credit card account

If you’re jointly responsible for the account, your credit card is still active and your name will be the primary name on the account. You should still inform Discover that a joint account holder has passed away.

As the administrator or executor of the estate, how do you make a payment on a Discover account?

If you’re the administrator or executor of the estate, you can make a payment by:

  • Calling a Deceased Account Services representative at 1-800-347-5519.
  • Sending the payment stub included with the statement in the enclosed envelope.

Please remember to include the account number. We seek payment only from the assets in the deceased cardmember’s estate. You’re not required to use individual or jointly owned assets to pay this debt.

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  • Legal Disclaimer: This site is for educational purposes and is not a substitute for professional advice. The material on this site is not intended to provide legal, investment, or financial advice and does not indicate the availability of any Discover product or service. It does not guarantee that Discover offers or endorses a product or service. For specific advice about your unique circumstances, you may wish to consult a qualified professional.