Credit Card Debt After Death in Canada

Understanding Credit Card Debt After Death in Canada

When a person passes away, many questions arise about their financial affairs. Among these, a common query is what happens to credit card debt after death in Canada. This article will shed light on this topic and answer some of the most frequently asked questions.

Responsibility for Credit Card Debt After Death

The onus of settling the credit card debt of a deceased person primarily falls on their estate. Any assets within the estate must be utilized to clear the outstanding debts, including taxes due to the Canada Revenue Agency. Creditors must be paid off in full before any distribution is made to the beneficiaries.

In cases where a person has guaranteed the credit card debt or co-signed the credit card agreement, they become liable if the estate lacks sufficient assets to clear the debt. A supplementary cardholder is also held accountable for any unpaid debt on the account, especially if the estate cannot fully pay off the debt.


Spousal Responsibility for Credit Card Debt

A spouse becomes responsible for the credit card debt if they:


  • Have guaranteed the debt;
  • Have indemnified the bank issuing the credit card; or
  • Hold a supplementary credit card on the same account.


If none of these conditions apply, the spouse will not be held responsible for the debt.


Estate Trustee’s Role

The role of an Estate Trustee is crucial in handling a deceased person’s financial obligations. An Estate Trustee who fails to pay off the debts before disbursing the money to the beneficiaries can be held directly responsible for the unpaid debts.

If the estate is insufficient to satisfy all debts, the Estate Trustee is not required to use personal funds to settle the remaining debts. In such cases, there will be no distribution to the beneficiaries. Estate Trustees are advised to consult a lawyer or a licensed insolvency trustee in such situations.


Inheriting Parent’s Debt

Children, as beneficiaries, cannot inherit debt. However, certain conditions exist where children may be liable:


  • If there are assets in the estate, and children as Estate Trustees fail to pay all the debts before distributing funds to the beneficiaries.
  • If any child has guaranteed, co-signed, or indemnified a creditor on behalf of the parents.
  • If a child was a supplementary cardholder on a parent’s account and there is an outstanding amount at the date of death.


Debt Forgiveness Upon Death

There is no automatic debt forgiveness upon death. The deceased person’s estate is responsible for paying off the credit card debt. However, if the estate lacks assets, the credit card issuer may have to write off the debt, provided there is no other person to claim against.

If the deceased person had credit card balance insurance, the insurance policy would cover the debt.


Handling Insolvent Estates

In cases where an estate is insolvent, the Estate Trustee could seek a court order to place the deceased’s estate into bankruptcy. This action allows remaining funds to be distributed according to the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act (Canada).


Handling Debt with No Assets

In cases where there are no assets in the estate, the Estate Trustee informs all known creditors of the person’s death. The creditors will have no choice but to write off the debts if there is no other person to claim against.


Responsibility for Spouse’s Debt in Ontario

In Ontario, one spouse is not automatically responsible for the other spouse’s debt. However, the surviving spouse becomes liable if they have guaranteed, indemnified, co-signed, or were jointly responsible for the same debts.



Understanding the implications of credit card debt after death in Canada is essential. An individual’s estate is primarily responsible for settling the debt. However, certain conditions may make other individuals liable for the debt.

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