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Credit Card Debt After Death of Spouse UK – Complete Guide

credit card debt after death of spouse uk

For free and impartial money advice and guidance, visit MoneyHelper, to help you make the most of your money.

Dealing with the death of a loved one can be tough but dealing with the death of your partner is an extremely harrowing experience for most. Additionally, it can get even more overwhelming if they have left behind debt. 

Dealing with your spouse’s finances can be extremely overwhelming but with a little research, you can definitely clear out most confusions. 

Today, I’ll be analysing and going over what happens to the credit card debt of your partner if they pass away. 

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What Happens to Debt When You Die? 

When a person dies, their debts become a liability on their estate. The executor of the estate is then responsible for paying off any debts that the person had left behind with their estate.

If no Will has been written, then the administrator will be responsible for paying off the debt from the estate. 

Keep in mind that when I say that the executor is responsible for paying off the debt, that does not mean that they have to pay off the debt out of their own pocket. It merely means that they will be paying off the debt with the deceased person’s estate. 

If the estate is not sufficient to pay off the debts completely, they are most likely written off. 

Credit card debt is an example of individual debt. Secured and unsecured debts can both be an example of individual debt. 

In most cases, the civil partner or spouse is not required to pay off the individual debt. This is generally the case unless you have made a personal guarantee to the creditor that you will pay off the debt out of your own pocket. 

To reiterate, if your partner passed away with an outstanding balance on their credit card, you will not be required to pay off this debt.

This is still the case even if you were an additional cardholder for the credit card. Only the primary cardholder is liable for the outstanding balance on a credit card.

Just like other debts, the credit card debt of your deceased partner will be taken care of using their estate. If this money is not sufficient, then the debt will most likely be written off. 

what happens to debts when you die

How Do I Pay Off My Partner’s Debt After They have Passed Away? 

Dealing with your partner’s finances after their death can be very overwhelming which is why I’ve broken the process down into simple steps. 

Step 1: Contact the Creditors to Tell Them that Your Partner has Died 

If your partner died and left a large outstanding balance on their credit card, then you may be getting phone calls from the provider regarding their payments.

This would only add to the stress so it’s a good idea to contact them first and inform them that your partner has died. Inform them that you’re in the process of dealing with your partner’s estate and settling their debts.

Once they are informed of this, they should back off and give you time to get all the necessary affairs in order. It’s a good idea to ask them for a statement that shows how much outstanding balance is left on their credit card. 

If they have been doing so, you should also ask them to stop taking out money from your partner’s bank account in order to pay for their outstanding balance. They should oblige until you are able to get all affairs in order so you can pay off the debt effectively. 

Step 2: Check if the Debt is Covered by Insurance 

Once you’ve dealt with creditors and gotten them to hold off while you sort out your partner’s estate, you should check and see whether the debts are covered by any insurance policy that your partner might have taken out. 

You should check this for every type of debt that your partner has including credit card debt. 

If you find that your partner had indeed taken out an insurance policy, you can contact the insurance company and file a claim.

Once that claim is processed, the proceeds of the insurance policy will be given directly to the beneficiary. Assuming that the beneficiary is you, you can use these proceeds to pay off their debts if your partner’s estate is not sufficient for paying it off. 

In most cases, creditors forgive the debt if the estate is not sufficient enough for paying it off. However, if your creditors stress that the debt must be paid, you can use the proceeds of the insurance policy to pay it off. 

Note that for most insurance policies, the proceeds go directly to the beneficiary and are not technically part of the deceased person’s estate. 

If there’s no insurance and your partner’s estate is not sufficient enough to pay off their individual debt, you’re going to have to contact the creditor.

Explain your situation to them and see if you can get them to reduce the debt or have it written off. In most cases, creditors will be understanding and will pay off the money that your partner owed. 

You can use our free letter template to ask creditors or debt collectors to write off any outstanding debt left after the death of a loved one.

If your creditors refuse to write off the money that your partner owed, then I advise that you seek the advice of a professional. Contacting a debt charity such as StepChange or Payplan can be a good idea as they’ll analyse your situation and give you advice as to what your best option is. 

Step 3: Pay off the Debts in Priority Order 

Just like how you regularly pay off ‘priority debts’ first and ‘non-priority debts’ later, you’ll have to do the same when taking care of debts of your deceased partner.

This means that you will most likely take care of important debts such as mortgage payments and income tax arrears first and then move onto non-priority debts which would include credit cards

Joint Debts 

According to the law in the UK, a credit card can only have one primary cardholder. This means that for all credit cards issued in the UK, only one person is liable for the outstanding balance on them, i.e., the primary cardholder.

Thus, when it comes to debts on credit cards, joint debts do not exist.

Joint debts are typically examples of other types of debts such as a joint mortgage or a jointly owned current account that has an overdraft, etc.

When someone dies who had a share in a joint debt, then the outstanding debts are passed on completely to the surviving members in the loan agreement. 

If you took out such a debt with your partner and they have now passed away, you could definitely be in a very worrisome situation. There’s no need to panic as you have many options available to you even if you don’t have enough money to pay it back completely. 

You can contact the creditor and explain your situation to them. In most cases, they will be sympathetic and agree to reduce the amount of money you owe or reduce the amount of money you have to give as part of your monthly payments. They may also agree to write off the money you owe completely if the debt isn’t too large. 

Is it a Good Idea to Go to a Debt Advisor for Help? 

While it’s definitely a good idea to go to a debt advisor for help, I suggest you opt for an independent debt charity rather than a private debt management company. 

This is because private companies have an exorbitant amount of fees that they charge for their advice whereas independent charities provide you with their services for free.

A debt advisor can help you in many ways such as by telling you about debt solutions and options you may not have been aware of as well as informing you about any benefits which may be available to you. 


Outstanding debts when someone dies can definitely be very confusing to deal with. 

It’s very understandable that you would feel a certain responsibility towards taking care of your partner’s debts but it’s important to keep in mind that you’re not personally responsible for their debts in most cases. 

With a little help from a professional along with the right research and planning, you can easily take care of any outstanding debts that your partner may have left behind. 


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