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You ask a good question. A widow would not be responsible for unpaid credit card balances if she could show that the debt was not used for marital purposes and that she was not one that used the card. The problem with this is that card companies presume that the debt was "incurred for the benefit of the marriage" and attempt to collect from the widow. It is sometimes difficult to show the marriage did not benefit; unless the debt was incurred for the husband's separate property or business.
Often, even if one cannot get the card company to forgive all the debt, many companies will reduce the outstanding balance owed. With the recent credit issues in today's economy, there are still such companies.
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