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Debts of the Deceased

What Happens to Someone’s Debts When They Pass Away?

When a loved one passes away, it can be difficult for the entire family. The situation can be also become confusing when the notices for the deceased family member’s debts keep coming in the mail. The creditors are demanding payment, but your loved one is now deceased. Do you need to now pay these bills? It is important to understand what happens to someone’s debts when they pass away.

Many Creditors Will Simply Write Off the Debt if Presented a Death Certificate

When a person passes away, many times their debts pass away with them. This is because many creditors will simply write off the decedent’s debts if they are presented with a death certificate. Although many creditors are not required by law to write off the debt, credit card companies and even many medical providers offer to either write off the debt entirely or drastically reduce the size of the debt.

If you were a cosigned with your recently deceased family member, you will still be responsible to repay the entire debt yourself. The creditor will not very likely write off the debt if only one signer on the debt passes. In addition, do not continue to use the credit cards of deceased person. If the credit provider finds out you used the card personally after the death, they may take legal steps to make you responsible to pay back that portion.

Some Creditors will Seek to Be Paid Out of the Estate if One is Opened

When someone passes away, the property that they own will be placed into an “estate” if the property exceeds a certain set value. This estate is usually opened in the county court where the deceased person resided. It is assigned a court case number. An administrator of the estate is named and certain required legal documents must be filed before estate can be full administered.

If someone passes away and an estate is required to be opened, the creditors may seek to be paid from the proceeds of the deceased person’s estate. This can drastically reduce the proceeds available to other family members from the estate. Although some creditors may elect to write off the debts beforehand, certain creditors may file a claim to be paid through the deceased person’s estate.

Seek the Advice of an Attorney

Because various complex situations can arise when someone passes away, seek the advice of an attorney. Not all situations will play out the same way. Also, law differ from state to state. If you have a loved one who passed away and now you are receiving their debt notices, seek the advice of an estate or debt relief attorney.