Do I Have to Pay for my Deceased Spouse’s Debts?

When spouses die, the surviving spouse is left with a host of issues that must be dealt with, including the question of who pays for any debts left behind. While some people are afraid that they will be responsible for personal debts a deceased spouse left behind, this is generally not the case. Individual debts are typically only the responsibility of the person who took on the debt, and not their spouses. When the debt holder dies, it is up to the estate to pay off the remaining debt. Let’s take a look at how this process works.

Appointing an Executor

If your spouse dies, someone will have to step in and become responsible for managing all of his or her property. This person is called an executor, or sometimes a personal representative or estate administrator. The executor has the legal authority to manage the property and determine who becomes the new owner.

Notifying Creditors

All the property a deceased person leaves behind is known as an estate, and it includes debts as well as assets. The executor will review and inventory all estate property. He or she will also notify potential creditors that the estate has been opened and that they need to submit a claim if they wish to be paid for the debt.

Paying Creditors

After identifying creditors, the executor will then use estate money to pay any remaining debts. If there is not enough estate money to pay these claims, the estate is known as “insolvent,” and some creditors will not be fully reimbursed.

Joint Debts

It’s important to differentiate between individual and joint debts in estate planning circumstances. Family members do not have to pay for a deceased relative’s individual debts, but any joint debts held with other family members are different. If, for example, spouses have a joint credit card and one of them dies, the remaining spouse is still responsible for the credit card debt.

Comments 8

  • YaelMay 8, 2018 at 12:23 pm

    My husband put my name without my consent his made a lot of debts He is dead will I have to pay his debts I leave in Israel

  • YolandaJune 22, 2018 at 8:00 am

    Is there a homestead exemption. My husband died and nothing was in my name, including the house. I did step in as the PR. Can I use PR deed to get the home titled in my name or do I need to sell the home to service any debt?

    • Hammond Law GroupJune 28, 2018 at 2:50 pm

      Hello Yolanda, I'm sorry to hear you are going through this. Would you be able to call our office 719-520 1474 or 303-736-6060? We can talk through the issue with you. We are closed this Friday 6/29 and will reopen Monday at 8:30 am. We look forward to your call.

  • Patricia A MontagueAugust 21, 2019 at 10:34 pm

    My brother died and left a large debt of credit card in his name only.the only assets are a bank account and as 20 year old auto what do I do to settle his esate? I did inform credit cards about his passing!

    • Hammond Law GroupAugust 26, 2019 at 5:34 pm

      -Hi Patricia,

      The estate is responsible for the debts, meaning the assets your brother left behind. If the estate is not large enough to pay his debts, then you would tell the creditors there is not enough money to pay their debt. If you have more questions, please give our office a call at 719-520-1474.

      Kind regards,
      Tiana Rivera
      Marketing Manager

  • MeganSeptember 28, 2019 at 11:42 am

    I live in Denver Colorado and if I get married to my boyfriend (we only own a home together). Will I be responsible for his debts if he passes (Like his sole owned car loan, his sole owned line of credit, and his sole owned credit cards)? I keep getting mixed answers from different people and I just want to know the correct answer.

    • Hammond Law GroupSeptember 30, 2019 at 11:02 am

      Hi Megan,

      His estate would be responsible for any debts that are held in his name only. For an example, a Credit card that is in his name only. His estate would pay for those debts. Any joint debts the surviving spouse is responsible for paying.
      If he has assets that are not joint and go through probate you would be responsible for paying those debts before you get your inheritance.

      Kind regards,
      Tiana Rivera
      Marketing Manager

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