Deceased Family Members, Debts, and Creditors: 3 Common Questions

Question 1: What happens to a deceased personís 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 isnít enough money to go around, doesnít. 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 personís 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 spouseís name, you are not responsible and the debt must be repaid through the estate.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Deborah Sexton
Experienced estate planning attorneys Fayetteville AR of the Deborah Sexton Law Office PA offers estate planning and business planning resources to residents of Fayetteville AR.

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Disclaimer: While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication, it is not intended to provide legal advice as individual situations will differ and should be discussed with an expert and/or lawyer. For specific technical or legal advice on the information provided and related topics, please contact the author.

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