Frequently Asked Questions On Who Is Responsible For A Decedent’s Debt - Part 1


When a relative dies, the last thing grieving family members need are calls from lenders and debt collectors. There are many federal and state laws prohibiting abusive, unfair, or deceptive debt collection practices. These laws protect borrowers while alive and relatives after a loved one dies. This article provides answers to some frequently asked questions regarding handling a deceased person's debts.


This 4 part series of articles will provides answers to some frequently asked questions regarding handling a deceased person's debts including:


  • Who Is Responsible for Paying a Decedent's Debt?
  • Exceptions
  • Student Loan Debt
  • Speaking With Debt Collectors
  • What to do if a Debt Collector Calls
  • How to stop Debt Collectors from calling
  • Can Debt Collectors share information about a Decedent’s Debt to Others?
  • Filing a Complaint


Part 1 addresses Who Is Responsible for Paying a Decedent's Debt and Exceptions. Part 2 will address Student Loan Debt and Speaking With Debt Collectors. Part 3 will address What to do if a Debt Collector Calls and How to stop Debt Collectors from calling. Part 4 will address Can Debt Collectors share information about a Decedent’s Debt to Others and Filing a Complaint.


Who Is Responsible for Paying a Decedent's Debt?


Most debt does not simply disappear once the debt holder dies. Generally, a deceased person's estate is responsible for paying their debts. Once someone dies, they are called a "decedent." Their "personal representative" distributes the decedent's assets according to the terms of a will or, if the decedent had no will, state "intestacy" laws. The personal representative may be appointed in a will or, if there is no will, by a court. The personal representative pays off debts before distributing any remaining property to heirs and beneficiaries. If there isn't enough money in the estate to cover debts the property may be liquidated in order to make payments. Some property is considered “exempt," meaning that debt collectors cannot reach it. Most of the time, life insurance policies and retirement savings fall into this category. Further exemptions vary from state to state.




A deceased person's estate is normally responsible for the person's debts, though there are a few important exceptions.


Joint Account Holders - Two or more people can jointly hold bank accounts and credit lines. The holders of the account share responsibility. If one holder dies, the other holders are responsible for any associated debt. Therefore, jointly held credit card debt is one type of debt that you will be responsible for if a co-holder passes away. There is a difference between an account holder and an authorized user. An authorized user can use an account but is not responsible for any liabilities. In contrast, an account holder is responsible for its liabilities.


Cosigners - When someone borrows money, rents an apartment, or takes on some other financial obligation, they may be required to have a cosigner. This provides added assurance that the primary signer's responsibilities will be carried out. If the primary signer fails to keep up with their obligations (for example, when they die), the cosigner is on the hook for the unpaid debt.


Spouses in Community Property States - In Texas, property held by a married couple is known as “community property." Generally, this means that each spouse, with some exceptions, equally shares all property acquired during the marriage. The corollary is that any debt acquired during the marriage remains the responsibility of a surviving spouse.


Call your Amarillo Estate Planning Attorney Today and Get Help Handling a Deceased Relative’s Debt


Losing a loved one and handling their estate is already a difficult life experience. Handling a deceased relative's debt only adds to this burden. Fortunately, chances are you are not responsible for your deceased relative's debts. The best way to find out what your obligations really are is to simply contact a local Amarillo Texas probate attorney. If you are planning your estate or updating your will, the best thing to do is consult with a local Amarillo Texas estate planning attorney to make sure you are following the laws and regulations of your respective state. Many people have similar questions and go through the same line of questioning when deciding how to make or update their estate plan. It can be and often is critical that you get legal help understanding the basics of this process. The best way to get this understanding is to contact an experienced Amarillo Estate Planning attorney near you. Stop and take a breath and call an Amarillo Estate Planning Attorney who has had decades of experience.  Pick up the phone and call Amarillo Estate Planning Attorney Bill Cornett.  Bill is your choice as an experienced estate attorney in Amarillo and the Texas Panhandle.  Don’t waste another minute.  Call him today.


Your most important action may end up being the phone call that you make to your Amarillo estate planning attorney lawyer.  In the Texas Panhandle that call should be to Amarillo attorney Bill Cornett.  Whether you need assistance with a will, administration of an estate or a contested probate, contact the Law Office of Bill Cornett. Be smart…remember these phone numbers (806) 374-9498 or (800) 658-6618.


Put Cornett Law Firm’s 50+ years of experience to work for you


Bill Cornett, Amarillo Attorney, with Cornett Law Firm, offers affordable, qualified services as an experienced personal injury lawyer and probate attorney. Bill also has experience in estate planning and agriculture law. Sit down with Bill at his office located at 612 S. Van Buren St. in Amarillo TX by calling (806) 374-9498 or (800) 658-6618 TODAY to schedule a free consultation.


Cornett Law Firm - Amarillo Attorney Bill Cornett


(806) 374 - 9498

Bill Cornett


Bill Cornett grew up on a farm in Knox City, Texas. He received his Bachelor of Science in Agricultural Economics from Texas Tech University and his Doctor of Jurisprudence from the University of Houston Law School. Bill was licensed to practice law in the State of Texas in 1973.

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