State law sets statutes of limitations for debts, which may vary from state to state, according to the Federal Trade Commission. Some states have several statutes of limitations. The applicable law depends on the type of debt involved.
Bankrate has a table of state statutes of limitations for four categories of debt: written contracts, oral contracts, promissory notes and open-end credit. The statutes of limitations listed range from as few as three years to as many as 15 years.
As the Federal Trade Commission explains, statutes of limitations define the period in which a creditor can sue a debtor to collect an unpaid obligation. Upon expiration, the creditor can no longer file suit. However, the expiration of a limit does not extinguish a debt. It only bars lawsuits about the debt. Creditors may continue to contact the debtor, and the debtor, in some instances, can restart the statute of limitation by making a partial payment.