• Subhan Tariq, Esq

Who is Responsible for a Deceased Person’s Debt?



After a relative dies, the last thing a grieving family member wants is a call from a debt collector asking them to pay a loved one’s debt.


Here is what you should know about the rules and your rights if a collector contacts you about a deceased relative’s debts.


As a rule, a person’s debts do not go away when they die. Those debts are owed by and paid from the deceased person’s estate. By law, family members do not usually have to pay the debts of a deceased relative from their own money. If there isn’t enough money in the estate to cover the debt, it usually goes unpaid.


But there are exceptions to this rule.


You may be personally responsible for the debt if you:

co-signed the obligation, like a car loan

are the deceased person’s spouse and live in a community property state, such as California

are the deceased person’s spouse, and live in a state that requires you to pay certain kinds of debt, like some healthcare expenses

were legally responsible for resolving the estate and didn’t follow certain state probate laws


If you have questions about whether you’re legally required to pay a deceased person’s debts from your own money, talk to a lawyer.


Depending on your income, you may qualify for free legal services from a legal aid organization near you.


Who can pay debts out of the deceased person’s assets?


The Executor can. The Executor is the person named in a will to carry out what it says after the person’s death, they are responsible for settling the deceased person’s debts.

If there’s no will, the court may appoint an administrator, personal representative, or universal successor and give them the power to settle the affairs of the estate.


In some states, that power may be granted to someone else who was not appointed by the court. For example, state law may establish another process for someone to become the representative of the estate even if they have not been formally appointed by the court.

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