(WSVN) - Her husband passed away and for the widow, the problems just kept mounting when she was told she had to pay her late husband’s credit card debt. But does she? It’s why she reached out to Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser.
Sylvia and Manuel were married for 30 wonderful years.
Sylvia Bacallao, paying late husbands cards: “He was an outgoing person, very giving. Everybody loved him.”
And then one day, her phone rang…
Sylvia Bacallao: “Well, yes I was at work when they called me to tell me to come home.”
Manuel had died. Sylvia was devastated of course and then her phone rang again…
Sylvia Bacallao: “Oh, it started the next day after I buried him. That’s when they called me.”
“They” were the bank telling Sylvia that Manuel was late on his monthly credit card payment and in a letter said he owed $209.
Sylvia Bacallao: “Then that’s when I asked them to please to give me some time, and um…”
In 1989 and 1990, Manuel had opened a Visa and Mastercard for himself. He also got a card for Sylvia.
Sylvia Bacallao: “The Master Card, I don’t even recall using it. The Visa I used like sometimes. Yes, he would tell me like to buy presents.”
But when Manuel passed away his name was taken off the monthly statement.
Sylvia Bacallao: “They even asked me for my social security number and after that the bill started coming just under my name.”
Around $8,800 was owed on one card, a little over $4,500 on the other. Sylvia then started paying $100 each month on each card.
Sylvia Bacallao: “I’m still paying because I don’t want them to keep ruining my credit, which they already have. But it’s horrible, it’s like a dead end.”
Then after a year passed, Sylvia wondered why she should have to pay a debt on cards, since she was not the one who opened the cards and agreed to pay them.
Sylvia Bacallao: “I would like for them to show me proof that I am liable for those cards. That I committed to those cards to be paid.”
The credit card company sent a note saying they were unable to locate the application records. But she was told it didn’t matter; she still had to pay off her late husbands credit cards.
Sylvia Bacallao: “Some people would tell me don’t pay it. Just forget about it, don’t pay it but I just couldn’t do that. I called Help Me Howard because I was frustrated.”
Well Howard, your spouse passes away, do you have to pay their credit card debt?
Howard Finkelstein, 7News legal expert: “No… unless you signed papers agreeing to pay the credit card debt, you do not have to pay it. And in this case, the company has no record that she signed those papers. Now if the credit card company wants the money they are owed, they would have to go after her late husband’s estate and if there is no money in the estate, the credit card company is out of luck.”
We contacted Bank of America, which handles both credit cards.
A spokesman told me they could not talk about a customers information, but that they had reached out to Sylvia to try to resolve this. Sylvia says they contacted her, but nothing was resolved. By the way, even on Bank Of America’s website it says an authorized user is not responsible for paying the bill.
Howard Finkelstein: “Sylyvia can stop paying the credit card company. And if they sue you, the burden of proof is on them to prove you agreed to pay the debt and without that paperwork they lose.”
Sylvia is afraid to stop paying, but on the other hand afraid she can’t afford to keep paying.
Sylvia Bacallao: “Oh, I’m going crazy. I just don’t know how I’m going to be able to make ends meet, pay everything on time, so I don’t have problems with my credit.”
We are going to keep working with Sylvia on this and if she decides to stop paying her late husband’s credit cards, as the law says she can do, the credit card companies can report her to the credit bureaus, but she has a right to file an explanation, which can help keep her credit from being damaged.
Inherited a problem you’d be indebted to resolve? Bank on us for a little help. We don’t want credit, we just want you to cash in. With this Help Me Howard, I’m Patrick Fraser 7News.
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