My Dad Spends Up to $30K/Month. Could I Be Liable for His Debt?

Dear Penny,

A few years ago, my parents got divorced. I’m in my mid-30s with my own family. The divorce was messy with lots of debate over money. My mother confident that my dad is deep in debt, spending sometimes $30,000 a month , at least, when she could still see his bank accounts. I don’t know if it’s still like that. I do know that he lost his job in the last couple of years so it may not be as bad.

A long time ago, he put my name on a credit card that we share, and he said I can use it to make purchases when needed. I don’t spend a lot on it, but if he wanted me to order Disney tickets or something for our family, I’d use his card. I use it to buy meals here and there.

What I’m wondering is, when he passes, will I be responsible for his exorbitant debt? I can understand taking on my student loans that he has worked toward, but I don’t think the rest of this credit card debt should fall to me if I’ve spent only small amounts on this card. I never signed anything or asked for the card.

What can I do to protect myself and my credit?


Dear M.,

My guess is that your father made you an authorized user on his credit card. When you’re an authorized user, you’re allowed to use someone else’s credit card, but you’re not responsible for paying the charges.

That’s just my hunch, though. To confirm that you’re an authorized user, go to and see how the account is listed on each of your three credit reports. You could also call the credit card company to verify your status.

As long as you’re not listed as a joint account owner or co-signer, you shouldn’t be liable for your dad’s debt — not now and not when he dies. Since you didn’t sign anything, this shouldn’t be an issue as long as your father is trustworthy. But sometimes excessive debt and out-of-control spending can drive a person to do desperate things, like sign someone else’s name on a credit application. So for peace of mind, you need to. ..

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