Does a person’s debt go away when they die?
No, when someone dies owing a debt, the debt does not go away. Generally, the deceased person’s estate is responsible for paying any unpaid debts. When a person dies, their assets pass to their estate. If there is no money or property left, then the debt generally will not be paid.
Generally, no one else is required to pay the debts of someone who died. When someone dies, their assets pass to their estate. If they die with an unpaid debt, it should be paid from any money or property they left behind, if state law requires that it be paid. If there is no money or property left, then the debt generally will not be paid. For example, when state law requires the estate to pay survivors first, there may not be any money left over to pay debts.
The estate’s finances are handled by the personal representative, executor, or administrator, who pays any debts from the money in the estate, not from their own money. Being a personal representative means you can use estate assets to settle your loved one’s debts, after making payments to survivors according to state law.
Generally, no one else is required to pay the debts of someone who died, unless it is a shared debt. For instance:
- You were joint account owners
- You borrowed the money as a co-signer
- You are a surviving spouse and you live in a community property state where spouses share responsibility for certain marital debts
- Your state has necessaries statutes where parents and spouses could be responsible for certain necessary costs such as healthcare
If you were an authorized user on a credit card account belonging to the person who died, that does not make you responsible for paying their credit card debt.
These rules can be hard to navigate, especially when you’ve recently lost a loved one. There are experts who can help, potentially for free or at a low cost.
- Get legal help. Lawyers can help you understand your rights and make a plan. You may qualify for free legal aid, based on your income. Contact your local bar association or find a legal aid office in your area.
- Find local services and supports. The Eldercare Locator connects older Americans and their caregivers with trustworthy local support resources, including .
Still having trouble with debt collection?
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