Debts After Death: Who Pays?
Of all the issues that arise after someone dies, it's often the financial ones that pose the most
difficulties. If a spouse or family member passes, you may be unprepared to deal with the specific
details of handling the decedent's financial affairs, including any debts left behind. It's important to
understand that family relatives are only rarely responsible for paying the decedent's debts. Here's
what you need to know.
Executors. After someone dies, an executor (also known as a personal representative) will take over
managing the property the decedent left behind. As part of this process, the executor will notify any
potential creditors and let them file a claim. If there is enough property in the estate, the executor will
use it to pay off all the creditors. If there isn't enough money, the executor will determine who
receives money, and some creditors will be left out. The executor never uses his or her own money,
nor that of the decedent's family members, to pay estate debts.
Joint Debtors. If someone else incurred a debt with the decedent as a joint borrower, that person will
still have to pay even after the debtor dies. Also, spouses who live in community property states may
also be responsible for some debts, depending on the circumstances. You'll need to talk to your
attorney for more information about community property debts after death.
Collections Agents. Don't let a collection agency push you around. These agents will often try to make
a deceased person's family pay for a debt even though they're not responsible. If you're being
pressured by a collections agent, talk to your attorney immediately.
Experienced estate planning attorneys Seattle WA of the Byrd Garrett PLLC offers estate planning and
business planning resources to residents of Seattle WA. To learn more about these free resources,
please visit http://www.byrdgarrett.com today.