Can You Get Stuck with a Family Member’s Debt After They Die?

Experiencing the loss of a loved one is difficult enough without the added stress of dealing with their debt. Often, when a loved one passes, the family will start to get calls from creditors or debt collectors looking to recover the deceased person’s debt. Are you actually responsible for your loved one’s debt after they die, though? The answer depends on a couple of factors.

If a close family member has recently passed and you are worried about accumulating their debt, you should contact a skilled debt settlement lawyer. Outlined below is some helpful information on what happens to a person’s debt after they pass away.

What Your Family Member’s Debt Looks Like

When you take out a credit card, you are creating an agreement with your creditor that you will repay any money you borrow. This agreement between a person and their creditor usually does not extend to family members—even their spouse—regardless of whether that person is deceased.

In short, just because you may inherit assets or possessions from a family member, does not mean you will also inherit their debt. However, if you had a joint account with a deceased family member or friend, it’s a different story. If you were jointly liable for any debt with a deceased person, you are still responsible for the entirety of that debt.

Creditors Will Contact the Executor of the Deceased Person’s Estate

Although heirs or family members aren’t responsible for paying back their loved one’s debt, that doesn’t mean the debt disappears. Instead, the obligation falls on the “executor” of a deceased person’s estate.

An estate includes all the assets that comprise the net worth of an individual, including land, real estate, stocks, and all other possessions. The estate of a person who passes is managed by the assigned executor or administrator. Usually, a person designates a family member for this role long before they pass. After a loved one passes, the administrator of their estate is responsible for managing all their financial dealings, including their debts, which may be paid from the assets of the estate.

The Administrator of an Estate Must Contact Creditors

If you are the administrator of a deceased loved one’s estate, it is best to contact creditors and the three major credit bureaus—Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion—in a timely manner and ask that the status of any accounts belonging to the deceased person be marked as “deceased.” This will help prevent identity theft. It’s also a good idea to request a credit report for your loved one, as this will help you figure out how much outstanding debt they had.

Co-Signers Are Liable for Remaining Debt

If a deceased person had credit cards with co-signers, the co-signers are liable for any remaining debt. However, authorized users and additional cardholders on a credit card are not responsible for leftover debt. Rather than co-signing liability for the debt, authorized users and additional cardholders simply “piggyback” on the credit of the original account holder.

Consult a Skilled Debt Settlement Lawyer for Help Resolving Your Loved One’s Credit Card Debt

If you are being contacted by a debt collector for the debts of a deceased family member or friend, it is important to understand what debts you may be liable for and what debts you aren’t. The best way to navigate handling the debts of the deceased is to work with a skilled debt settlement lawyer.

At McCarthy Law, we are dedicated to helping our clients navigate their financial circumstances and reach a favorable debt settlement. We understand the overwhelming burden that debt creates and are committed to helping our clients resolve their debts and restart their lives. To schedule a consultation with one of our skilled debt settlement lawyers, call (855) 976-5777 or fill out our online contact form.

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Joe Panvini

Joe Panvini

Joe received his law degree from the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law at Arizona State University in 2010. On behalf of consumers, he has successfully briefed and argued complex consumer law issues in both individual and class action lawsuits. Joe is admitted to practice in Arizona and Washington, as well as numerous federal courts across the country, including the Ninth and Eleventh Circuit Courts of Appeals.