Deceased Family Members, Debts, and Creditors: 3 Common Questions
Question 1: What happens to a deceased person’s debts?
There are several possibilities. Once a person dies someone will have to manage the
property left behind. That person, known as an executor or personal representative, is
appointed by a probate court, though the deceased person can select who serves in that
position by nominating someone through a last will and testament. The personal
representative is then responsible for paying back any leftover debt by using estate
funds and property.
Question 2: Is the executor personally responsible for the debt?
No. The executor has to determine what the deceased person owed, who gets repaid,
and who, if there isn’t enough money to go around, doesn’t. If a deceased person left
behind more debt than property, some bills will not get repaid. The personal
representative is not responsible for paying those bills, but rather, coordinates who gets
repaid with estate money.
Question 3: Is the family ever responsible for the debts?
Typically no. Even though debt collectors and creditors will often attempt to persuade a
spouse or family member to pay for a deceased person’s debts, the only time someone
else is responsible for paying them back is if those debts were incurred jointly. If, for
example, you and your spouse have a joint credit card, you are still responsible for
paying any credit card balance after your spouse dies. If the credit card was, on the other
hand, only in your spouse’s name, you are not responsible and the debt must be repaid
through the estate.
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PA offers estate planning and business planning resources to residents of Fayetteville AR.
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