No one wants to think about mortality, especially that of their loved ones. However, death is an inevitable part of life. Sometimes, thinking about it in advance can go a long way toward making the inevitable less difficult.
One factor that you should consider if you have a loved one who is elderly or ill is their finances—particularly their debts. If your loved one passes away and leaves behind debt, what will happen to it? And will you have to pay it yourself?
Who repays debts after a death?
Handling a decedent’s estate involves many tough decisions, including whether to repay outstanding debts. Fortunately, surviving relatives are not usually liable for this. When someone who has outstanding debts passes away, their estate is responsible for paying creditors. If the estate doesn’t have enough money or assets to cover the debts, they generally remain unpaid.
One major exception is jointly held debt, including mortgages or joint credit cards. In this case, the other party may be at least partially responsible. For example, mortgage debt belongs to the borrower on the loan. If the living spouse is a joint owner, then they must sell the house or continue paying the mortgage.
When debt collectors harass survivors
Family members are protected by law from abusive, unfair, harassing or deceptive collections tactics following a relative’s death. However, this does not discourage some unscrupulous collectors from harassing grieving survivors.
Coping with the death of a relative is painful enough without debt collectors bothering you. You do have legal options if creditors will not leave you or your family alone. You deserve to mourn in peace, without creditors swarming you.
Know your options, know your rights
Death and money are two topics that most people wish to avoid. But you will probably have to confront both, eventually. If you do lose a loved one and find yourself managing their debts, you do not have to do it alone. You can find support so that you know your legal options and your rights as a surviving family member.