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What happens to debt when someone dies?

If you have recently lost a loved one, you may be finding every day a struggle. Even if the death did not come as a surprise, coming to terms with the loss of someone close to you is difficult even under the best of circumstances.

While, in the immediate aftermath of your loved one’s passing, you might have to arrange a funeral, memorial service or burial, there are additional matters you may have to handle in the days to come.

If your loved one who passed away left behind a large amount of debt, you may be wondering who is on the hook for it. Unfortunately, there is not simple, one-size-fits-all answer to this question. However, you may be able to find an answer in one of the following scenarios.

If your loved one had assets

If your loved one left behind sizable assets, the assets will often go toward the deceased person’s outstanding debts. If you are an executor over your loved one’s estate, it is typically among your duties to pay off any lingering debts using the estate before distributing any assets to named beneficiaries.

If your loved one left behind credit card debt

If your loved one left behind considerable credit card debt and did not have enough assets to pay if off, you probably do not have to worry about it too much, unless you are a co-signer on the credit card. That does not mean credit card companies will not contact you to try and collect the debt, however, so it can pay – literally – to know your rights in this area.

If your loved one still owes on a mortgage

If your loved one dies and still has mortgage payments to make, in most cases, the home will enter foreclosure. If you also own the home, however, you can generally avoid this as long as you continue to make full, timely payments.

Every family situation is different, so it is important to recognize that what holds true for one person’s debt may differ from what occurs under your loved one’s specific circumstances.


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