Who is responsible for paying the debt of deceased?

When a person passes away, they may leave behind debts that require repayment by the estate or a surviving family member.

When people pass away, they may have more than just an estate to leave behind. While decedents in Texas may have amassed property and assets to pass onto their heirs, they may have also accumulated debt. In some cases, this debt must still be paid off, even after the person who acquired the debt has died. Comprehensive data shows that more than 80 percent of U.S. households have debt, according to data from the Federal Reserve. It can be difficult for close friends and family members to understand how repaying debt of a dead loved one works, especially when they are still going through the grieving process.

The probate process

After someone passes away, their estate moves into the probate process. During this period, the executor of the estate, or the person named to handle the affairs of the estate once the owner has passed, has the responsibility of paying off any remaining debts. These debts are paid off using the estates' assets, which may be property and/or assets that the decedent left behind. For example, if there were unpaid debts owed by the estate, the executor may hold an estate sale to obtain enough money to pay off the debt. The heirs named in the will only have access to the property and assets that are left over once all the debt is paid.

Who is responsible?

The surviving family members of the deceased are not typically held liable to repay the debt. Although most of the bills will be paid by the estate, there are some reasons why a family member may be responsible for paying these expenses, according to the Federal Trade Commission. Texas is a community property state, meaning that each spouse is obligated to pay half of all expenses. Even if a spouse passes away, the living spouse must continue to pay those debts, regardless of whether their name is attached to the account.

Credit cards

Credit card debt may be discharged once the account holder has died. However, there are some instances where the debt does not go away. If the deceased has a co-signer on the account, the co-signer may be held responsible for the balance on the card once the person passes away.

Obtaining legal counsel

When your loved one passes away, you may be overwhelmed with the responsibility of taking care of the estate and repaying debt owed to creditors. Those who are facing this situation may want to speak to an attorney who understands how this process works.