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What Happens to Your Debt After You Die?

What happens to your debt when you die varies from state to state and is determined by probate laws. Unfortunately, leaving behind credit cards and other obligations can prevent your heirs and beneficiaries from receiving what you want them to have. In some states, your surviving spouse may even have to pay off a portion of your debts! The best way to combat this is to ensure that your will and estate plan is official, appropriately updated, and finalized well before you pass.

If you find yourself in a situation where your loved one has passed, there is no need to worry Attorney Bucklin has you covered!

So, What Happens?

Settling the Probate estate of a deceased loved one is not simple for the typical Personal Representative. The decedent's debts must be handled first before the calculation to determine an heir or devisee's inheritance. There are specific and unique requirements for creditors of a decedent's probate estate. Furthermore, what are Probate assets, and how are they identified and collected by the Personal Representative? Nowadays, many people have titled assets to avoid probate which means that creditors cannot access them, in most cases. These questions can be answered by Attorney Bucklin.

Can I Avoid Probate?

Yes! There are ways to avoid probate. The best way to go about it is to have a living trust created before you die. Since the “Trust” owns those assets and not your estate, the assets under your Trust are not subject to probate. It is important to note that just because your assets are in a trust does not mean they are fully protected. However, it does provide you more flexibility compared to what you may face in probate. With a trust, your executor has more control and can do their best to negotiate with creditors to reduce your debt.


This of course highlights the importance of estate planning.

Are There Any Exceptions?

Fortunately, it is unlikely that any one of your family members would have to use their own money to pay off your debts. There are however a few exceptions:

  • Cosigner of Credit Card or Loans: In the event that you are the cosigner on an account held with a descendent, you would be responsible for paying off the debt of that specific account.

  • Jointly Owned Property: Similarly, if you have any joint credit card accounts or properties with a descendent, you would be responsible to pay the balance.

  • Community Property States: Residents of Massachusetts are more fortunate compared to residents in states like California, Idaho, and Arizona. In community property states spouses are required to pay off anything that is jointly owned by a married couple.

  • Required By State: Certain states may require family members of the descendants to pay debts such as medical bills.

What Should I Do If My Loved One Dies With Debt?

If you have unfortunately had to say goodbye to a loved one and noticed that there is unpaid debt left behind, you should know how to handle the situation appropriately.

Know Your Rights

As mentioned probate laws can vary depending on the state in which you are located. It would be unreasonable to expect everyone to dust up on proper probate laws during a hard time. That is why a professional attorney can help walk you through each debt and situation!

Collect Important Documents

If your loved one was known to keep their important documents somewhere special, this step will be simple for you. If not the surviving spouse can request a copy of the decedent’s credit report. Which will reveal any account that their name was listed on.

Prevent Further Spending

This step may sound obvious, but it is important to be sure that none of the credit cards in the decedent’s name are still in use. Not acting fast on this step may result in complicating matters worse down the line.

Notify Creditors and Credit Bureaus

Finally, set aside some time to give a call to the three most common credit bureaus, as well as the descendant's credit bureaus. Having multiple copies of your loved one's death certificate will aid in sending an official notice to those that need it.

The important message in all of this is that you do not have to go through this process on your own. A professional attorney will be able to navigate the process with you to ensure that each situation is handled to your satisfaction.

Contact Attorney Bucklin Today!

Going through a death of a loved one is never easy, and the last thing that anyone wants to do is go through probate over unpaid debts. In order to get debts out of the way in a timely manner and be able to focus on other aspects of your life. For more information on probate of estate legal services be sure to contact Attorney Bucklin by calling him at 781-632-8675 or by filling out a contact form on your website!


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