Does a Debt Go Away When the Debtor Dies?
If a relative dies the last thing grieving family members want are calls from debt collectors asking them
to pay a loved one’s debts. According to the Federal Trade Commission, family members are typically
not obligated to pay the debts of a deceased relative from their own assets.
That said, a debt does not go away when the debtor dies. The estate of the deceased person owes the
debt. If there’s not enough money in the estate to cover the debt, it goes unpaid.
There are some exceptions to this rule. For example, you may be responsible for the debt if you cosigned
the obligation, or if you live in a community property state, are the deceased person’s spouse,
and state law requires that you pay for a particular type of debt, like health care expenses.
You may also be responsible for the debt if you were legally responsible for resolving the estate and did
not comply with state probate laws.
If you have any questions about whether you are legally obligated to pay a deceased person’s debts
from your own assets, talk to a lawyer.