My husband died recently leaving me with $22,700 worth of credit card debt. How can I negotiate with the creditors to bring down the balances so I can pay off the credit accounts?
First off please accept my condolences on the passing of your husband. Now, if these cc bills were in his name only I would think you could negotiate your way completely out of the debt simply because your name is not on the card, etc. Try this first IF its his name only.
Although it has been a while, I'm thinking this will still work. When my ex's mother passed away, I called each creditor, let them know she was deceased. Most if not all just required a copy of the death certificate. Mind you, most wanted an official copy, so it may be good to call all of them first, and determine how many copies you need, because there is usually a fee for copies of the certificate.
You state that your husband died and left you with credit card debt. Does this mean that you did not make use of these cards while your husband was alive? Or were these joint (regardless of whose name is on the card) accounts?
Many credit card companies will have a primary card holder and that person can request a card in another persons name. If that is what happened in your case then in most states you are as responsible as the primary holder. This information will also be on both individuals credit report as owing the debt. This is true even if you give a child a card in their name (it is almost like co-signing - in most states and with most ccs).
You do not state if there was insurance or if you are working or if there are small children involved (and you will be collecting social security benefits?) so since all of these factors may have a baring on how to handle this problem - only you can really assess your responsibility as to this debt. You can evaluate your situation and try to get help from some local sources before contacting the cc companies.
Just remember, they a have record of everything! Sometimes a person may use a card that is not in their name and a cc company "can" sometimes try to hold that person responsible for the debt and even take them to court. (and many times a judge will agree with the CC company if that person used the card a lot).
Were you or your husband making payments on these loans?
Did you sign checks making payments?
I am only bringing up things that cc companies use to legally collect a debt.
If you realize that you may be held responsible for these debts then it is best to try and negotiate with cc companies before the debt is in arrears.
If you are responsible for this debt (purchases were for the benefit of you, your husband, your family) then perhaps it would be best to try and negotiate a reduced amount or a reduced monthly payment or reduced interest rate and no annual fee.
You should know that any of the above mentioned actions will probably STOP your use of these cards and it may show on your credit report so please consider all factors before making a phone call. Do you have a credit card in your name? Can you live without having a credit card? There are situations that may require a credit card just to use their services (auto rentals, on-line purchases, etc) and you may not be able to get one if any of these actions are on your record with the credit bureau. Of course there are other alternatives but please give this matter some serious thought and try to get professional advice before making any phone calls (usually ALL phone calls are recorded).
Also, when credit card companies reduce or eliminate debt this is considered as income with the IRS and at the end of the year you will receive a form from the cc company that you have to file as income on your tax return.