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When does your debt expire?

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Dear Dr. Don,
How old can a debt be before it cannot be recovered? I thought it was seven years in Georgia.
— Concerned Casey

Dear Casey,
It depends on the type of debt. The Bankrate feature “State statutes of limitations for old debts” provides a listing by state and by type of contract. The types of contracts are written contracts, oral contracts, promissory notes and open accounts — a category that includes credit cards.

The listing isn’t a substitute for legal advice, and you should check with your state attorney general to confirm the statutes haven’t changed. But it’s a starting point for understanding the statute of limitations on debts. The Web site for the National Association of Attorneys General provides contact information by state for these officials.

As the Bankrate feature points out: “Once a debt passes beyond the statute of limitation in your state, a debt collector no longer has the right to sue you for payment. You may still have a moral obligation to pay back an old, forgotten debt, but you can’t be sued over it.”

The feature goes on to say: “Any debt collector who threatens to sue you over a debt that is beyond the statute of limitation in your state is in violation of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.”

To ask a question of Dr. Don, go to the “Ask the Experts” page, and select one of these topics: “Financing a home,” “Saving & Investing” or “Money.” Read more Dr. Don columns for additional personal finance advice.