Do You Pay Decedents’ Debt?
As a Florida Probate attorney with an understanding of Deceased Estate Law, I get asked this question all the time: “Do I have to pay off my dead relative’s debts?”
For most people in most situations, the answer is no.
When someone dies, their estate is responsible for paying off their debts. That means that debt collectors can go after bank accounts and other forms of savings and assets that the deceased individual owned to get the money they’re owed. If the estate doesn’t have enough funds, the collector is usually out of luck because they can’t go after other people to collect. The debt simply goes unpaid.
That doesn’t necessarily stop some unsavory collectors from trying, though, and if saying no and asking them not to call doesn’t scare them off, you should report them.
Of course, it’s also important to mention that there are some specific exceptions to this rule that do allow collectors to come after you.
Florida Probate Attorney: Reasons You Would Be Responsible for the Debt
While you can’t be held responsible for the debt of other decedents in most cases according to Deceased Estate Law, there are particular circumstances where you might be required to pay.
- You signed the obligation. When you open a joint account with someone or sign on as an account holder, you are responsible for any debt accrued on that account. For example, if you are an adult and you’re on your mother’s credit cards as an account holder, you will be required to pay back anything she owes when she passes on. However, if you’re just an authorized user, you cannot be held liable.
- You were responsible for the estate and violated probate laws. If you’re put in charge of handling the decedent’s estate, it’s your job to sell off any assets to pay off the debt. If you neglect to pay or prevent debtors from collecting by illegally using assets, they can make you pay back the debt with your own money.
- Your spouse died. The rules on the transference of spousal debt are quite complex. Your best bet is to speak with an experienced Florida Probate attorney about your specific situation.
If you still feel confused about your situation and whether or not you can be made to pay, talk to a Florida Probate attorney that you trust.