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What Happens to Debt When Someone Dies?

When a loved one dies, there are a million things going through your mind. On top of grief, there are so many tasks to complete in order to close out your loved one’s life. But what if they had debt? What happens to the debt after someone passes? It doesn’t just go away, so all of the debt must be handled carefully.

Generally, the estate of the decedent is responsible for paying off the debts to which they still owed money. The personal representative of the estate is responsible for this, but there are a few situations where the estate is not the responsible party. This occurs if there was a co-signer on a loan, a joint account holder on a credit card, or if state law requires the spouse or executor to pay the outstanding bill. Some states with community property laws require the surviving spouse to use community property to pay debts of the deceased spouse, but Florida is not one of those states. These are the main exceptions, but it is wise to talk to an attorney about your specific situation to be sure that the correct party is paying off the decedent’s debts.

In 2016, a study by Experian discovered that about 73% of Americans die in debt, and the average debt owed upon death is $61,544. While relatives are not responsible for paying off the debt on behalf of the deceased, it is the responsibility of the executor or the administrator of finding the responsible party or making sure that the estate can cover the debt. If the estate cannot cover the full debt with funds specifically allocated for this debt, the estate may have to eat into the inheritance that some surviving family members may be expecting. The estate is deemed insolvent if the debt on an estate is higher than its assets. In this case beneficiaries will not receive any of the assets of the estate.

At Kendrick Law Group, we understand that the process of paying off a loved one’s debts can be stressful. Our attorneys have the expertise and patience to help guide you through this process. Contact us today to schedule a consultation and learn more about paying off debt when somebody dies.

Cowritten by Layne Cohen, Law Clerk

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