Am I Liable For My Deceased Spouse's Debts?

If a credit card is in my deceased spouse's name, am I responsible for paying the balance?

If a credit card is in my deceased spouse's name, am I responsible for paying the balance?

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Bill's Answer
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Highlights


  • Understand that most debts are not forgiven when the debtor dies.
  • Examine how being in a community property state affects you.
  • Look into all options for resolving debt, if you are stuck with the responsibility to pay it.

My condolences on your loss. If you remember anything I am about to write, please let it be this: Do not believe legal advice from collection agents. The legal advice collection agents tell people is usually incomplete or wrong, and is always self-serving.

Deceased Spouse’s Debt

Some people assume a decedent’s debt is forgiven or possibly written off by creditors. The law does not work that way, with the exception of federal student loans. However, spouses or other relatives are not responsible for the decedent’s debt automatically, either. Many collection agents take advantage of a debtor’s grief and ignorance of the law to imply the family must pay the decedent’s debt, but that may not be the case.

When a person dies with a will, the will controls the financial affairs of the decedent’s assets, which is called the “estate.” A will distributes assets, not debts. However, before any assets can be distributed to the heirs, all known debts must be paid by the executor. Therefore, the executor will sell assets in the estate to pay for any debts that remain. Only after the debts are paid will the remaining assets be distributed among the beneficiaries of the will.

If a person dies without a will, this is known as “dying intestate” in lawyer-speak. In this situation, the court appoints an administrator to handle the distribution of the decedent’s assets according to the laws of the state. As with dying with a will, assets are distributed after debts are paid.

Here is a key point: If the estate is insolvent the creditor has no legal right to collect the debt from family members, children, or friends. There is no feudal debt bondage that ensnares an entire family, at least not in the US. In most states, the creditor cannot collect from the spouse either. However, in community property states, the question becomes more complicated.

Deceased Spouse’s Debt in Community Property States

Community property states include Alaska, Arizona, California, Idaho, Louisiana, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Washington, and Wisconsin. Generally speaking, in community property states, debt incurred by a spouse for the benefit of the family is considered a “community” debt, and therefore the spouse is responsible for repaying that debt.

However, no two community property states use exactly the same laws. As a consequence, if you live in a community property state and have a spousal debt issue, it is imperative that you consult with an attorney in your state who has probate law experience so that you understand your rights and liabilities in your particular circumstances.

Summary

For additional information, see the Federal Trade Commission documents Paying the Debts of a Deceased Relative: Who Is Responsible? and FTC Issues Final Policy Statement on Collecting Debts of the Deceased.

I hope this information helps you Find. Learn & Save.

Best,

Bill

Bills.com

120 Comments

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  • 35x35
    Jul, 2012
    melissa
    My husband was in the hospital in 08, he passed away in 09. In collections a bill in his name, which I have a copy of was in his name and they switch it into my name and they are taking me to court and I told them he passed away and it is only me and my 2 girls and I can't affor to pay upfront or payments to our incoming bills $1500. Can they switch the names and take me to court and make me pay his bill? Thats not right.
    0 Votes

    • 35x35
      Jul, 2012
      Bill
      What you described is possible under three circumstances:
      • At some point during your spouse's hospital stay, you signed a document, called a guarantor agreement, indicating you accept responsibility for the debt if your spouse does not pay it.
      • You and your spouse resided in a community property state where the presumption is the debts incurred by one spouse are owed by both.
      • You and your spouse resided in a state with a doctrine of necessaries rule that requires spouses to pay for their spouse's necessities of life.

      Do not assume you have liability for the debts just because the hospital's collection agent says so. Consult with a lawyer in your state who has consumer law experience to learn if the hospital's assigning the debt to you is consistent with your state's laws.

      0 Votes

  • 35x35
    Apr, 2012
    Jan
    Yes I was wondering if you would be so kind to answer a couple questions for me please. My sister passed away in January 2012, she had a will and my siblings and I were appointed the executors of her estate. We have tried to grant all of her wishes but unfortunately not everything was in order as she thought... She had a little insurance policy that allowed us to pay for her funeral expenses and all her outstanding debt, utilities, credit card debt and miscellaneous. Where the problem comes in is that she owned her own home, was never married so had no children and her name is the ONLY name on the deed and loan of her home. She did not leave any of her siblings as a beneficiary. My question for you is we feel forced to let the bank foreclose on the home as we can not pay off the outstanding debt, there is no money to do so. We continued to pay on the home as long as we were able with the money that was left from the insurance policy. Now that we have decided to let the home go back we are being told that we may still be held responsible since we were appointed the executors. Again our names are on nothing other than the will listing us as executors of the estate. I have been told even if I let the house go back that my own credit can be jeopardized. Will you please put my mind at ease with the real facts of the matter? I need to hear the correct information from someone that is an expert in this field. Thank you very much for any information you can give to me.
    0 Votes

    • 35x35
      Apr, 2012
      Bill
      Whoever told you executors have personal liability for the estate's unpaid liabilities misstates probate law. Consult with a lawyer in the decedent's state of resident who has probate experience to learn more about how to probate the estate in accordance with the law.
      0 Votes

  • 35x35
    Jan, 2012
    TL
    My sister died 4 years ago and she left me, my siblings and nephew on her will. my sister also left the will in the hands of an attorney as executive. Me and my sibling asked this lawyer to give the home to my nephew. We had nothing to do with the property and now 4 years later the home owners association is sueing me because my name was on the will. How do I remove my name from the property?
    0 Votes

    • 35x35
      Jan, 2012
      Bill
      You name appearing as a beneficiary on a will should not determine liability for a debt. Something else is going on here. Perhaps the property was never titled in the nephew's name? Consult with the probate lawyer you mentioned to learn more.
      1 Votes

  • 35x35
    Jan, 2012
    Jason
    My father in law has terminal cancer currently and the doctors are estimating another month of so for him to live, we reside in Texas. My question is this: Is his wife legally responsible for his unpaid medical bills and what happens to their home once he is deceased? Does the home get sold to cover the medical bills? She is the primary on their health insurance and she is on the title of house they own that is paid off.
    0 Votes

    • 35x35
      Jan, 2012
      Bill
      You mentioned Texas, and I will assume the people involved here are Texas resident's, too. The answer to your first question is maybe, depending on Texas' community property law and doctrine of necessaries. I want to emphasize the following two points:
      1. Consult with a Texas lawyer who has probate experience now
      2. Do not believe the legal advice from collection agents regarding the family's or spouse's liability for a decedent's debts. Collection agents have one job, and it is not giving complete or accurate legal advice.

      I am not answering your question deliberately. That is because I am not trained in Texas law, nor do I feel competent to offer an observation about the spouse's liability here. A lawyer's time is not cheap, but bad legal advice is expensive.

      0 Votes

  • 35x35
    Jan, 2012
    Stacey
    Hello - my brother just passed last week. He only had one outstanding debt which was a truck payment. He has no other assets. He was still legally married, but hadn't been with his spouse for several years. His name was the only name on the contract for the truck. At this point, can the truck just be turned back in to the company along with proof of his death or how exactly does that work? We live in the state of VA which isn't a community property state. Thanks for any assistance you can provide.
    1 Votes

    • 35x35
      Jan, 2012
      Bill
      The decedent's spouse should start the probate process so all of his assets and debts are accounted for properly, debts are paid, and assets distributed according to a will or state law. Consult with a probate attorney in the state where the decedent resided to start the process.

      You mentioned Virginia. If the decedent was a Virginia resident, see the Virginia Court Clerks' Association document Probate in Virginia (PDF), which discusses the general probate rules for Virginia.
      0 Votes

  • 35x35
    Jan, 2012
    Misty
    My father passed away nearly two months ago. He and my mother were still married and living together in Ohio at the time of his death. My father left behind a few credit cards and bank loans that were in his name only. Is my mother responsible for this debt even though her name wasn't on any of these accounts nor were they joint accounts?
    0 Votes

    • 35x35
      Jan, 2012
      Bill
      Impossible to answer your question without knowing more about the loans you mentioned. Everyone dies with an estate. An estate can contain billions of dollars in assets, or several thousand in debts. Big or small, an estate should go through the decedent's state probate process.

      You mentioned Ohio. See the Ohio Bar document LawFacts Pamphlet: Probate to learn more about the probate rules in Ohio. Then, encourage your mother to consult with a probate lawyer to start the probate process.
      0 Votes

  • 35x35
    Dec, 2011
    Erin
    My husband passed away three years ago. I hired an attorney prior to removing my husband from life support- who charged a lot and did nothing but cause me more trouble with bad information and take money I didn't have. My husband was 35 and had no will or estate. I have paid off his medical bills, the car, transferred everything to my name that was co-owned. My problem is with his one credit card. I do not have the money to pay it off, I struggle to make ends meet and support my daughter who was a month old when he passed. My name was not associated with his credit card. I let the company know and faxed death certificate but they sold it to collections. I continually get collection letters to the estate of__. I send them back marked no estate return to sender- I have not even opened one since I forwarded to the attorney- since there is no estate I feel it is wrong to even open it. Since the attorney I hired did nothing but basically steal from me- he never dealt with this even though I forwarded the first letter to him, I need to know if I am liable for this one debt. From what I have read in the state of Oregon I am not. But I have a 780 credit score despite this whole mess and I don't want to screw it up, on the other hand I don't have the funds to settle on a collection just to get the monkey off my back, I figure that maybe if I can avoid it until July of 2014 it may just roll off. What is the best way to resolve this?
    2 Votes

    • 35x35
      Dec, 2011
      Bill
      A decedent's estate has liability for his or her debts. Generally speaking, a surviving spouse or other family members do not have liability for a decedent's debts. Contact the court-appointed lawyer who administered the will and ask him or her for another explanation of which debts you have liability for. The decedent's debts, if solely in his or her name, should have zero impact on family members' credit scores.

      Do not believe legal advice offered by collection agents. They have one job: Collect money for their employer. If that means stretching the truth to bereaved family members, so be it. Consult with a lawyer who is advocating on your behalf before you pay any more bills in the decedent's name.
      0 Votes

  • 35x35
    Dec, 2011
    Danielle
    Hi Bill, I have a question for you regarding the death of a spouse and the responsibility for utility bills in the state of Michigan. My dad passed earlier this year and his name was the only one on the gas bill, and the bill was quite delinquent. Even though my mom wasn't on the bill at all, is she responsible for the balance? The gas company seems to think so, as they are now adding the old balance to her new (and unassociated) account. Is this wrong of the gas company? If so, what should my mom do about this? Thanks for your help!
    0 Votes

    • 35x35
      Dec, 2011
      Bill
      First, your mother needs to probate your father's estate. Consult with a Michigan lawyer who has experience in probate law. Second, ask the lawyer about the utility's behavior and if it violates Michigan's public utilities laws.
      0 Votes

  • 35x35
    Dec, 2011
    Ronald
    My Dad and Mom married in 1976 and divorced in 1979. My dad received a loan from the VA in 1976 and finished paying off the loan in 1995, now during this time she has since remarried but wants to stake claim to the house since my dad recently passed, she has paid nothing on the house taxes, maintenance, etc. Does she have any claim to the house it has been 32 years since their divorce? state Arkansas
    0 Votes

    • 35x35
      Dec, 2011
      Bill
      Ronald, you need to speak with a probate attorney. He or she will review all the pertinent documents such as the divorce settlement papers and your father's will and then will offer you an authoritative legal opinion.
      0 Votes

  • 35x35
    Dec, 2011
    Sandra
    Hello bills, My son had a surgery back in March of 2010, He has medical insurance through his father. We are now divorced. According to out divorce decree for unpaid medical bills (by insurance)we are both responsible at 50/50. Which I understand and agree to. The thing is now, I have been contacted by collection agencies about the bills from my son's surgery in 2010. I had no Idea they even existed because my ex husband never forwarded me a bill or told me that they were owed. The creditors never sent me a bill either. Now I am in collections because of these bills because my my ex husband forwarded them all my info and divorce decree(maybe even my SSN). I really feel it is now right to be sent to collections with out ever recieving a bill from the creditor or my exhusband. When I tried to contanct one of the creditor they told me they couldn't discuss anything with me because my name wasn't even on their facesheet. Is there any legal action I can take agaisn't my ex husband or collection agency?
    0 Votes

    • 35x35
      Dec, 2011
      Bill
      Please read the Bills.com article about medical bill responsibility.

      I recommend that you speak with your attorney regarding any actions that can be taken against your ex-husband. In addition, I suggest that, after speaking with your attorney, you contact the collection agency and try to negotiate a settlement.

      Check your credit report to see if this has adversely affected your credit score. If so, then negotiate a pay for delete.
      0 Votes

  • 35x35
    Oct, 2011
    Rex
    Dear Bill, I was married for over 20 years and divorced in 1997 in Texas. My former wife and I had opened a credit card in 1993, I was removed from the account in 1996, but the account was left open in her name after our divorce. She died in 2010 in Texas, and the account was in good standing until her death. I live in Kentucky. Six months after her death I was called by a collection agency for the bank demanding repayment. They informed me the death of the card holder was not their problem and they would not contact the estate of the deceased nor file a claim. The account was transferred into my name and they have kept their promise to ruin my prefect credit. What rights do I have, as I am now writing to all the credit agencies and am planning to speak again with an attorney? The credit card company has really made no attempt to collect on the unpaid balance and the attorney I spoke with in Kentucky said their suit would be dismissed by a judge in Kentucky as spurious. Thank you.
    0 Votes

    • 35x35
      Nov, 2011
      Bill
      Rex, you are taking the proper steps, so far. I recommend speaking with an attorney that specializes in cases regarding violations of the Fair Credit Reporting Act, to see if you have a case against the bank/collection agency for listing this item on your credit report. If a lawyer thinks your rights have been violated, a pointed letter from the attorney may get the bank/collection agency to rethink its actions.

      You may also want to file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). As the FTC Web site states, "The Federal Trade Commission works for consumers to prevent fraudulent, deceptive, and unfair business practices and to provide information to help spot, stop, and avoid them. To file a complaint, visit the FTC's online complaint assistant or call 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357)."
      0 Votes

  • 35x35
    Oct, 2011
    Sarah
    Bill-my ex husband recently died unexpectedly. He only had one child, a minor, which is mine and he and I were married less than 10 years. He lived in Michigan at the time of his death but we live in Ohio. He owned a small condominium in Ohio. He owes back taxes to the IRS as well as some back property taxes. Also, he was in arrears in child support payments. 1) Is my daughter automatically the next of kin (and therefore I am next of kin as the guardian of the minor child) and entitled to the property? 2)If so, is she responsible for the debt? Meaning, will she be required to sell the property in order to cover the back IRS taxes and property taxes and any other debts her father had? Thank you in advance for your assistance.
    0 Votes

    • 35x35
      Oct, 2011
      Bill
      Consult with a lawyer in the decedent's state who has experience in probate law. The lawyer will guide you and the decedent's family through that state's probate process. In this process, all of the decedent's assets and liabilities are accounted for, and liabilities are paid according to their priority. If liabilities (bills, taxes owed, and so on) are greater than the assets, the creditors are notified of the shortfall. Family members do not "inherit" debt, such as the tax liability your mentioned. However, the decedent's estate must be probated according to state law to resolve any debts properly.
      1 Votes

  • 35x35
    Oct, 2011
    Carol
    Thanks in advance for your help. My Father in law died this spring with zero assets. My Mother in law has dementia and is on medicaid in a nursing home. He had been taking care of her prior to his death. He had credit card bills and medical bills that are now being forwarded to us as we had to move mother in law into a nursing home and provide a forwarding address to their former apartment. How do we handle the bills and collection notices that are now coming to our address? We have sent out copies of death certificate to no avail. Please help.
    0 Votes

    • 35x35
      Oct, 2011
      Bill
      Probate the estate. Sharing copies of a death certificate is not enough to placate creditors. Consult with a lawyer in your state who has probate experience.

      Many Bills.com readers will write and say words to the effect of, "The decedent died without owning much of anything, so there is no estate to probate." That is not true. The probate process is still necessary if the decedent died penniless but had debt liability. A probate lawyer will help guide you through the process.
      0 Votes

  • 35x35
    Oct, 2011
    Vanessa
    My husband passed away 4 days ago. He was self employed and to the best of my knowledge I believe he was not up to date with his taxes. The business will be transferred to his fathers name because I want nothing to do with it. Will I be liable for any unpaid taxes on his behalf when I file my tax return this coming year? I live in NJ.
    1 Votes

    • 35x35
      Oct, 2011
      Bill
      I am sorry for your loss.

      Consult with a tax professional who can give you precise tax advice. I can give you my opinion, but please understand that it is not enough for you to base your decision upon.

      My guess is that you would be liable for any taxes owed, if you file jointly, but not if you file your return as "married, filing separately," and your return does not show you owing.

      Consult with an attorney for assistance with the proper processing your husband's estate — called probate — and with a tax professional, to make sure you structure your return in a way that best minimizes your tax liabilities.
      0 Votes

  • 35x35
    Sep, 2011
    Darrien
    My mom passed away and she just won a settlement and i just want to know how do i find out how much debt she had. Also if i become the executor of her estate am i responsible for all of her debt...(she did not have a will)
    0 Votes

    • 35x35
      Sep, 2011
      Bill
      Consult with a lawyer in the decedent's state who has probate experience. "Probate" is the law and process used to account for a decedent's assets and liabilities, pay the decedent's debts, and either execute a valid will or distribute assets according to the state's laws. An experienced probate lawyer will guide you through the process.
      0 Votes

  • 35x35
    Sep, 2011
    Eddie
    My father died and so did my mother. My father owns a residence but passed away. He owes taxes had no will and i want the property to be mine. Ill pay taxes. I'm disabled. What can i do to name the property under my name? Both of my parents are dead. I live in Texas.
    0 Votes

    • 35x35
      Sep, 2011
      Bill
      Consult with a Texas lawyer who has experience in probate law. "Probate" is the name of the process where all of the decedent's assets and debts are accounted for. The assets and debts are called an estate. Estates can be big or small, but regardless, the estate must go through the probate process properly. In the probate process, a person named an executor will notify the creditors what their share is, if any, of the decedent's estate. In other words, the executor will pay all or part of the decedent's bills. The executor will also distribute the decedent's assets. In other words, the executor has the authority to place your father's home in your name.

      Again, start this process by finding a lawyer who has probate experience.
      0 Votes

  • 35x35
    Sep, 2011
    Nancy
    Bill my ex died did not take me off the mortage as orderd in divorce. No will and all persons on deed has passed. I am on disibility and the bank says the house is mine but his kids kept my mail from bank that is offering a short sell. The mail went to ex house he was on medicade. What should I do his oldest has my mail and I am sure opened it she said the bank wont tell her anything.Is it or is it not mine?
    0 Votes

    • 35x35
      Sep, 2011
      Bill
      You simply do not have enough information to know your rights and liabilities regarding your ex-spouse's estate. You and your ex-spouse's offspring and relatives need to meet with a lawyer in your ex-spouse's state of residence who has experience in probating estates. In the probate process, the decedent's assets and liabilities will be accounted for, and all of the decedent's creditors will be notified how much they will be paid. Also, this process will answer the question of who inherits the decedent's real and personal property.
      0 Votes

  • 35x35
    Sep, 2011
    Sybil
    My husband died in 2007, and we owned a small corporation at that time. When cash flow was slow, he got fuel from a friends privately owned fuel station, with an agreement to pay when the money came in for jobs we had done. Before he could finish paying it, he died. I filed Chapter 7 two years later, and hadn't heard from these people for years. I even forgot to list them on the Chapter 7. I never signed anything or charged any fuel with them, and now they are pressing me to pay. I am on a fixed income, caring for my aging mother, and they are threatening to take my mortgaged home, etc. Is there anything they can do?
    0 Votes

    • 35x35
      Sep, 2011
      Bill
      Consult with an attorney to get a precise answer to your question. There could be statute of limitations issues in play and you may not be legally responsible for the debt.

      They can't take your home. Threatening you as they are may be a violation of the law. They can sue you, which, if it resulted in a judgment against you, could lead to a bank levy, income garnishment, or lien on your home, depending on the laws in your state.

      Review all of this with an attorney, as well as the exemptions your state grants you for the equity in your home.
      0 Votes

  • 35x35
    Sep, 2011
    Amanda
    My dad passed away 2 weeks ago. About a year ago he bought a new car, while he was filling out paperwork on the new car they asked him if he wanted extra insurance to pay off the car in case of his death, will they still pay off the car if it was a pre exisiting condition, even though they didnt ask if he had medical problems when he filled out the paperwork for the car?
    0 Votes

    • 35x35
      Sep, 2011
      Bill
      The document you described is an insurance contract, and each insurance contract varies in its details. I would not do you a service to comment on a contract I have not read. Take the contract to a lawyer in the decedent's state to learn more about its terms and conditions.
      0 Votes

  • 35x35
    Sep, 2011
    Iokelina
    Hi Bill - Thank you so much for answering these questions for all of us. My husband and I live in Texas and the year we were going to have our marriage ceremony his mom past away after having cancer for 28 years. Neither one of us felt like having a marriage celebration and we've considered ourselves married from the moment we met, so we've been happily common-law ever since. We're setting up wills, because we just had our first baby and our question is this: Our mortgage is solely in my husband's name. In his will - if he leaves the house to me - would I get it without any hassle - OR - would they need to run my credit at that time and "approve" me for the loan? Would officially getting married (even though we're in a state that does recognize common-law already) reduce the "hassle" or either way would we still be looking at me needing to be "approved" for the mortgage at that time? (We hope I never have to deal with any of this, but we want to make sure we're setting up a strong plan for me to continue to take care of our son if God-forbid something happened to my incredible husband.) Thank you in advance!!
    0 Votes

    • 35x35
      Sep, 2011
      Bill
      Let us assume Person A has a mortgage. Person A writes a valid will naming Person B as the recipient of real property owned by Person A. The property has a mortgage in Person A's name. Person A dies, and the property passes through probate to Person B. Person B, married or not to Person A, needs to qualify for a mortgage based on Person B's financial situation.

      Consult with a lawyer who has wills, trusts, and estates experience to learn more.
      0 Votes

  • 35x35
    Aug, 2011
    Angela
    I am helping a senior, her husband just passed away. The PSE&G bill is in her name. The bill is very high. Is the widower responsible for paying this bill? Thank you, Angela.
    0 Votes

    • 35x35
      Sep, 2011
      Bill
      You wrote 'widower,' but I think you meant to write 'widow.'

      I think that she is responsible to pay the bill, given that it is in her name. She may be able to get some payment flexibility, if she calls and explains that she was just widowed.
      0 Votes

  • 35x35
    Aug, 2011
    Anita
    My husband & I have been married for the past 18 1/2 yrs,separated the last 3 1/2. He died 7/22. He bought a truck co-signed by his parents. The insurance has lapsed but his greedy family is still driving it. What can I do? Am I financially responsible it they get in an accident?
    0 Votes

    • 35x35
      Aug, 2011
      Bill
      If you live in a common-law state for family law, which most states are, then I do not see liability for you regarding the decedent's vehicle. However, if you live in a community property state, you may have liability. Consult with a family lawyer in your state to learn what, if any, liability you may have for the vehicle.

      If you or someone in the family has not done so already, consult with a lawyer about probating the estate as quickly as possible. Because the family is getting a free ride at the moment, they may be reluctant to do so, but if you have liability, probating the estate will resolve it.
      0 Votes

  • 35x35
    Aug, 2011
    Claire
    My husband passed away July 2011. He left credit card debt of $15.000 We own our home jointly, which has a mortgage. I was told by the Credit card company, I could pay the debt off without interest. Am I liable?
    0 Votes

    • 35x35
      Aug, 2011
      Bill
      The credit card issuer would love for you to pay the balance of the decedent's debt, with or without interest. However, you may be a fool for doing so because it is unlikely you have liability for the debt.
      1. Consult with a lawyer about probating the decedent's estate
      2. Do not pay any of the decedent's separate debts until you consult with a probate lawyer.
      3. Pay the debts your probate lawyer directs you to pay and no others.
      4. If a creditor calls and threatens or harasses you, direct them to call your lawyer.
      5. Do not believe any legal advice from a creditor or collection agent. They do not have your best interest at heart. To the contrary, they have one job — collect money for their employer. If lying to a grieving family member allows them to collect money, so be it

      Some readers tell me, "The deceased had so little in assets, there is no estate." That is an untrue statement. Estates can be big or small, but regardless, the family should consult with a lawyer to probate the estate properly. In the probate process, all assets and debts are accounted for, and the executor will notify the creditors what their share is, if any, of the decedent's estate.

      0 Votes

  • 35x35
    Aug, 2011
    Patti
    My Mother died w/o a will. My dad found a credit card that she had with a balance of $4,000. Is he responsible to pay this? His name is not on it nor did he sign it. The Card company said no, he is afraid they will come back on him in the future. He lives in Michigan.
    0 Votes

    • 35x35
      Aug, 2011
      Bill
      Reread the original answer above for a discussion of the issues you raise in your message. Was the decedent's estate probated? Everyone has an estate, be it small and filled with debt or large with billions in assets. If the estate was not probated, then the family should consult with a lawyer in the decedent's state of residence who has probate experience. If the estate was probated, then the debt you mentioned would have been handled by the estate's executor. If it was not, then bring it to the executor's attention immediately.
      0 Votes

  • 35x35
    Jul, 2011
    Jackey
    We live in California. My dad passed away, he had full medical coverage. Due to medical needed, he had all his teeth extracted 2 years ago. We found out later, that was not covered by medical. Now my dad has passed away. That teeth extraction bill is now troubling our family with calls/letters. My question is, does my mom responsible for that bill? My dad left nothing behind, no will, no estates at all. He was disabled and the disable benefit was his only income. What can we do about this bill? Caller is mean and saying someone must pay it. Thank you for anyone that willing to reply.
    0 Votes

    • 35x35
      Jul, 2011
      Bill
      Everyone dies with an estate. Some estates consist of millions in debts and billions in assets, and some are much smaller. Consult with a lawyer who has probate experience to discuss probating the decedent's estate. In that process, the creditors will be informed of the disposition of their claims against the estate.
      0 Votes

  • 35x35
    Jul, 2011
    Barbara
    My husband held the mortgage on a retirement home in Florida that went into foreclosure after he died in 2008. I was on the deed in which the home was built on, but not on the mortgage. Am I liable to pay the mortgage company?
    0 Votes

    • 35x35
      Jul, 2011
      Bill
      If you are not a co-borrower or co-signer on the loan contract, then you have no liability. The title is a separate document that gives people named on it their own bundle of rights. Address this question to an attorney in your state to ensure that you get an authoritative answer.
      0 Votes

  • 35x35
    Jul, 2011
    Janet
    Hi my husband died may 2011 and he owes back taxes and he owns a gas station but no home or car are on his name. Will i have to pay back the taxes. We filed joint tax & i think the irs has put a hold on the gas station. My husband was shot and killed in a robbery attempt i was shot also. Thank you.
    0 Votes

    • 35x35
      Jul, 2011
      Bill
      Consult with a lawyer who has probate law experience. He or she will assist you in:
      1. Probating your spouse's estate
      2. Resolving the estate's tax issue
      3. Determining what, if any, tax liens are on your spouse's property

      Any decedent has an estate. An estate can consist of minimal assets and a tiny balance on a credit card, or billions of dollars and millions in debts. The families of both princes and paupers should consult with an estate lawyer in the decedent's state of residence to learn what steps to take to probate the estate according to that state's laws.

      0 Votes

  • 35x35
    Jun, 2011
    Brenda
    My husband passed away January 2011 am I responsible for his medical bills. To my knowledge I did not sign anything saying I would be responsible for the bills because I was not working.
    1 Votes

    • 35x35
      Jun, 2011
      Bill
      Please review the original answer above for a general discussion of the issues you face. For a specific yes or no answer to your question, consult with a lawyer in your state who has probate law experience. He or she will review the facts in your case, analyze your spouse's estate, and advise you accordingly.
      0 Votes

  • 35x35
    Jun, 2011
    Victoria
    I received a 1099C for my deceased husband - he died in 2009 - for 2010 - do I have to claim this as income on my tax return for 2010? The credit card was in his name only and his social security number is the only one on the 1099c.
    0 Votes

    • 35x35
      Jun, 2011
      Bill
      My understanding is that you should not report it on your tax return, since the 1099C and the debt were in his name only.

      However, as I am not an accountant, I advise you to speak with a tax professional. Any time there is a cancellation of debt issue, I recommend consulting with a tax pro.
      0 Votes

  • 35x35
    Jun, 2011
    Barbara
    Bill, My mother in law keeps getting letters from the IRS threatening to garnish her wages for her spouses back taxes he owed when he past plus interest, the were in NY at the time of his passing and she never held a job and he was sole supporter but they filed a joint tax return. He has been gone for over 16 yrs now. Can they do this? I know that the IRS can garnish 15% if you make over $750 a month and I am not sure exactly how much she makes but it is not much more than that if that at all.
    0 Votes

    • 35x35
      Jun, 2011
      Bill
      The IRS is not in the habit of sending social messages to taxpayers, nor does the IRS tend to forget unresolved debt. In other words, it is time for the letter recipient to stop ignoring the messages and resolve the issue.

      Tell your mother-in-law to call a lawyer who has tax law experience or a tax relief professional, make an appointment, and bring all of the documents relating to the tax issue (including the letters she received) to the meeting. The lawyer or tax relief professional will advise her accordingly.
      0 Votes

  • 35x35
    May, 2011
    Vanessa
    My Mom's Husband just passed away. He paid all the bills and we discovered he has over $47,000.00 in credit card debt! He had insurance to pay the house and the car but is my Mom responsible for all these credit cards? If she does not pay them and she passes will I be responsible for them? Please help we cannot afford an attorney and I really want to help her.
    0 Votes

    • 35x35
      May, 2011
      Bill
      Please reread my original answer above regarding a surviving spouse's liability for a deceased spouse's debts. When a person dies, his or her estate must be probated according to the laws of where the decedent resided. It is in the probate process that the spouse will learn what liability, if any, he or she has for the decedent's debts.

      Neither the surviving spouse nor anyone else should pay even a dime towards any debts without the advice of their lawyer. Remember that collection agents or customer service representatives are not your lawyer, will not give you accurate or complete legal advice, and are looking out for the best interest of their employer, and not you or your family.

      You mentioned you cannot afford a lawyer. Call your county bar association. Ask for the name of the organization in your area that offers no-cost legal services to people with no or low income. Make an appointment with that organization, and bring the surviving spouse and all of the paperwork that relates to the decedent's debts and assets (such as bank account and credit card statements) to your meeting. The attorney you meet will advise the surviving spouse accordingly.
      0 Votes

    • 35x35
      May, 2011
      Stephanie
      I just lost my father. the hospital just sent a letter stating my father owned over 60000 in debt.Is my mother responsible for the debt,since they have decided to send the bill to collection.Is the bill going to be in her name.
      0 Votes

    • 35x35
      May, 2011
      Bill
      It is hard enough to deal with the loss of parent or spouse. Having a $60,000 bill in the picture only adds to the stress.
      Your father's estate is responsible for the debt. It is unlikely that your Mom is personally responsible, unless she made some commitment to the hospital to cover the cost of your father's care.

      Did your father have a will? Did he leave any assets behind, either money, real estate, stocks, or personal property? If so, the debt can be collected from his estate. If he had no assets, it is likely the debt will not be collectible.

      I think it is important to speak with an experienced probate attorney in your state to get all your questions answered. Your mother should make no pledges to pay anything nor send a penny to anyone unless she is advised to do so by her attorney.
      0 Votes

  • 35x35
    May, 2011
    Denise
    When I got married, I already owned my house, in my own name. My husband's name was never added to the deed. He had several thousands in debt prior to our marriage, and accumulated some debt in his own name after our marriage. We live in New Jersey. I have my own checking account, and we have a joint account. I am the beneficiary of his retirement plan. He is quite sadly terminally ill, and we have been advised to take care of his final wishes. His concern is that I will have to pay off his debts, and he has no life insurance. Is that true, and do you have any suggestions for what I should do now, while he is still living? (Other than pray hard for a miracle that keeps him with me)
    0 Votes

    • 35x35
      May, 2011
      Bill
      I try to confine myself to commenting on the legal and financial aspects of reader comments, but in this case I will step outside of my rule.

      I think we can all appreciate a person who is about to die not wanting to leave their family a mountain of bills. I think we can also appreciate a person who wants debts repaid to his or her friends and family to preserve the positive memory these friends and family may share about the deceased.

      I have the utmost respect for the wishes of the dying. However, it is unfair for your spouse to impoverish you or your family to repay a debt that your spouse could not or would not pay while alive. It is the duty of the dying to burden their family as little as possible, and I see it as unreasonable for your spouse to place a higher priority on repaying debts than taking care of a spouse or any minor children.

      Consult with a lawyer in your state who has experience in probate law. Discuss the deathbed wish to repay debt. Do what-if scenarios with your finances if you pay or do not pay the debts. Learn your liability should your spouse die sooner than later.

      Best regards, and please return here to let us know what course of action you decided to take.
      0 Votes

    • 35x35
      May, 2011
      Denise
      Thank you so much for responding to my question when it is not normally your custom to do so. I must apologize to you because my choice of words, and the order in which I typed them, misled you. When I said "his concern is"...I should have said "he is worried that"... The point is he does not want his bills to fall on me and our children. Since he owns nothing and has no life insurance, he is scared for us that the creditors will come after me, which is absolutely what he (and I) want to prevent. In light of that information, do you have any advice for us? Thank you again for your response!
      0 Votes

    • 35x35
      May, 2011
      Bill
      Consult with a lawyer in your state who has probate experience, and in particular, discuss your spouse's debts and how they would be handled under your state's laws. Ask him or her if bankruptcy is a viable option.
      0 Votes

  • 35x35
    May, 2011
    Bhree
    how do we go about handling the credit card debt of my grandmother and grandfather since she recently passed , they own the home and vehicle only real debt is credit card, joint cards and 2 in her name onnly
    0 Votes

    • 35x35
      May, 2011
      Bill
      A decedent's assets (things he or she owned and rights he or she had) and liabilities (unpaid bills and obligations) are called the decedent's estate. In a process called probate the estate's executor will tally all of the assets and liabilities. If the assets are greater than the liabilities, all of the decedent's bills and obligations are paid. The remainder is distributed according to the decedent's will or the laws of the decedent's state of residence. If the decedent's liabilities are larger than the assets, then the executor will follow the state distribution rules. This is a simplified explanation, but it conveys the general idea behind probate.

      Some unscrupulous collection agents will telephone the spouse or family of the decedent and say they owe the decedent's debts. As discussed above, this claim is almost certainly untrue. If you receive such a call, refer the collection agent to the executor, and do not pay the caller a dime unless the executor explains why you owe the debt.

      In summary, the decedent's estate must go through the state's probate process. Consult with a lawyer in the decedent's state who has probate experience to learn how to begin this process.
      0 Votes

  • 35x35
    Apr, 2011
    Linda
    I live in the lovely Commonwealth of Virginia. Unfortunately, my husband recently past away Spring of this year. He was very irresponsible with his bills. He has had several wage attachments for state taxes that he owes, he owes the IRS over $100k but thank goodness I always filed married seperate not joint and still owes, tons of medical bills. He never had any property in his name and always cashed his paychecks immediately because he was afraid that they would attach the property and/or paychecks. My problem is that when he died he left no living will but did leave me as the beneficiary on his life insurance policies. I am also finding out that he borrowed alot of money to individuals, against his 401k and so forth. The main things that I am concerned about is that if they can they come after me and the life insurance money that I received due to his death? I am on a fixed income and unable to work and also supporting 3 children. I would like to be able to use this money to take care of debt that I have and have some money to count on for me and my children for a little while. He was also a very sick man. For as long as I knew him, he always had medical issues. So, he owes about 5-6 hospitals in the area a nice chunk of money. What should I do? What am I responsible for? Can they attach my bank account? HELP PLEASE!!!!!! Thanks...
    0 Votes

    • 35x35
      Apr, 2011
      Bill
      My first and last thoughts are to recommend you speak to a Virginia attorney who has experience in probating estates about your case. He or she will analyze each debt and explain whether you have liability for it. The decedent's estate has liability for all of the decedent's debts, as well as rights to all assets (the loans you mentioned, for example). The life insurance you mentioned should be exempt from any claims.

      If there is anything you remember from my reply let it be this: Beware information from collection agent. Collection agents are not your lawyer, and collection agents are in the business of maximizing collections. The advice from collection agents is usually incomplete and self-serving. Again, consult with a lawyer who can review all documents in person and can give you personalized, precise advice.
      0 Votes

    • 35x35
      Apr, 2011
      Linda
      If I am to understand you correctly you are stating that the personal loans should be exempt from the life insurance but all other debts will have to be paid from the life insurance. Does that mean IRS, State taxes, and medical bills? Do you happen to be familiar with any probate lawyers in the Norfolk/Chesapeake/Virginia Beach area in Virginia that you might be able to refer me too? I am really stressing out about this and don't know what to do....thanks
      0 Votes

    • 35x35
      Apr, 2011
      Bill
      In a common-law state such as Virginia, each person's assets and liabilities become part of their estate upon death. Assets include real property, vehicles, stocks, bonds, debts others owed them, and their personal property, such as furniture, clothing, artwork, and so on. Liabilities include their medical bills, credit card debts, taxes mortgages, car payments, and so on. Assets and liabilities make up the decedent's estate, and until all of the accounting is done in the probate process, the estate remains unsettled. The decedent's spouse is not responsible for the decedent's debts — the estate is.

      Call your county bar association and ask for the list of lawyers who specialize in probate law. Read the Bills.com resource Find a Lawyer to learn how to pick the right attorney to do the job.
      0 Votes

  • 35x35
    Apr, 2011
    Sabrina
    My husband passed away unexpectly with no will on Feb 16, 2011. We live in GA. I am unemployee (got lay off with lack of work since Jan, 2010) and need to take care 22 months old boy. Our (my son and I) Survivor benefit are processing. I have house payment but the house in under my husband's name. I already found a state lawyer to help me to take care that issue. I start receive my husband's medical bill, which is the portion that not cover by his health insurance. I don't have enough money to pay those big medical bill. What should I do to right now? I feel so uneasy when I receive those bill. I already have a lot of things need to worry and take care. This is one of the things bother me the most. Plase give me some advices. Thank you so much!
    0 Votes

    • 35x35
      Apr, 2011
      Bill
      Your deceased spouse's medical debt is a liability for his estate. You are probably not responsible to repay these debts. I am guessing you consulted an estate lawyer to help you go through the process of putting the title of the house in your name. Talk to your estate lawyer about the medical debt, and any other debts that surface in your spouse's name.

      If there is anything you remember from my reply let it be this: If you get a call from a creditor claiming that one of your spouse's debts is your responsibility, do not believe them and give the creditor the telephone number of your lawyer. Pay the debts your lawyer tells you to pay, and no others.
      0 Votes

    • 35x35
      May, 2011
      Sabrina
      Mr. Bill, Thank you for replying my question. I feel way much better after I received replies from you and my attorney. I talked to my estate lawyer about the medical bills and the documents that hospital wants my personal information (SSN, my husband's estate, and anyother estate we have.....etc). I brough all of them to my attorney. He kept one copy of each and told me the same thing as you told me. DO NOT fill any documents from them and DO NOT pay anything to them, and just give them his telephone number when these creditor calls. And that's what I am going to do. Again, THANK YOU FOR YOUR VALUABLE ADVICE!!! *^_^*
      0 Votes

  • 35x35
    Apr, 2011
    Amy
    My fiance and I live in New York state. His wife passed away in Oct 2008. Since he and I have gotten together, we have gone over his credit report after being denied a home loan due to his credit standing. In doing so we found that her medical bills have been placed into collections under his name, as well as an account she opened as a joint account for a purchase of a vacuum cleaner in which payments were to be made on the item, without him signing any paperwork to do so. She did not have a will, anyone set as a poa, executer, etc. and had no life insurance or anything like that. She was on his health insurance for a period of time during the illness but due to him having to miss work because of her being ill and in the hospital, he had lost his job and the insurance, at that point his wife's sister then placed his wife on her (the sister's) own insurance. Is he legally responsible for these bills? We really want to be able to get his credit cleared to be able to purchase a home but don't want to have to pay on anything that isn't his responsibilty. The total on her medical bills alone is almost $30,000. Can you please advise us on this??? Thank you.
    0 Votes

    • 35x35
      Apr, 2011
      Bill
      New York doctrine of necessaries law is a bit tricky on this issue and the answer hinges on the answers to several key questions:
      1. Did the surviving spouse sign a document indicating he or she agreed to accept responsibility for the medical services? (You indicated there was no guarantor agreement.)
      2. Did the surviving spouse have the financial means to pay for the debt?

      See Promenade Nursing Home, Inc. v Lacey, 814 N.Y.S.2d 564; 10 Misc. 3d 1066A (2005) for details.

      Consult with a New York lawyer who has experience in civil litigation. He or she will review the facts here and New York law, and will advise your spouse what liability he has for the decedent's medical debt.

      0 Votes

  • 35x35
    Mar, 2011
    Vickie
    My mother died almost four weeks ago and left a $12K-$15K worth of unsecured debt in her name only and a lot of medical bills. I am the executor of the estate. My dad declined to be executor (he can't read or write) and I was next in line. The will has been probated in Coweta County, GA, and we have filed a petition for a year's support to get her 50% of the house transferred to my dad which was her only asset. The vehicles are in my dad's name. We have sent letters and death certificates to every creditor that we have come across. From everything I'm reading, it sounds like my dad will not be responsible for her debt. As an executor, can they make me sell his few possessions? He has no money, and hasn't worked much in the last couple of years. He barely has enough money to make ends meet each month. Luckily their house was paid for. Creditors are starting to ask for my address and phone number. I'm afraid they are going to start harassing me as well.
    0 Votes

    • 35x35
      Mar, 2011
      Bill
      A creditor cannot force an estate's administrator or executor to do anything. A creditor can stomp its feet, hold its breath, and send the administrator or executor letters asking for payment, but beyond that a creditor may not harass the administrator or executor. As you know, an estate's administrator or executor must perform certain duties to probate the estate. See the Georgia Probate Court's Georgia Probate Proceedings: What To Do When Your Loved One Dies to learn more about Georgia's probate law. Consult with a Georgia lawyer who has experience with probate law to get precise answers to your questions.
      0 Votes

  • 35x35
    Feb, 2011
    Michelle
    My grandmother passed 2 weeks ago and there is no estate. There is a small amount of money in a savings account but a very limited amount. My grandfather who lives is Washington state contacted her few creditors about agreeing to a settlement amount to close her account. The only difficult one has been Home Depot. He never opened the card, never used the card but the checks sent to pay for the monthly bill were from their joint checking account. If we do not pay it in full, would my grandfather be responsible to the remaining balance?
    0 Votes

    • 35x35
      Feb, 2011
      Bill
      In probate law, an estate is everything the decedent owned or had the rights to. An estate can be a few items, or a vast empire. All estates, big or small, need to go through the probate process in the decedent's state of residence or domicile.

      In your grandparent's case, it is especially important to follow the probate process to handle the decedent's debts, which are part of the estate, properly and according to state law. Your grandfather may be making a mistake by settling the debts outside of the probate process. I certainly understand the sentiment here — your grandfather wanting to handle your grandmother's bills is a way of providing closure. He may feel a moral responsibility to pay these accounts, but probably has no legal responsibility to do so if he was not a joint account holder. Your grandfather should consult with a lawyer in his state who has probate experience, and begin the probate process.
      0 Votes

  • 35x35
    Feb, 2011
    Sally
    My father passed away 2 weeks ago. He had a credit card with a credit union that has a $30,000 balance due on it. He was the owner of the account, but my mother was an 'authorized user'. He also had a car loan in his name only, with the same credit union. The only asset that I'm worried about is the mobile home that they still own outright. The title for it lists as the owner: William C. OR Lorraine C. I had moved them into assisted living a few months ago, but am only now putting the mobile home up for sale by owner (my mom). We desperately need the money that we can get from the sale in order to pay for mom's assisted living (it's only worth maybe $10K - probably not even). Mom is still in possession of the car (for which is still owed about $8K), but I figure the credit union can just repossess that. Can the credit union take the mobile home any time soon? Or somehow acquire the money that she gets from the sale of it (assuming she sells it before the credit union could get it's hands on it)? Dad did not have a will, as there weren't any assets other than the life insurance (of which she'll get $2000), the car (listed in his name only) and the mobile home (again, listed with both names with OR). Furthermore; they have a joint checking account into which their soc. sec. income, mom's military retirement death pension (survivor benefit from my dad), and a VA pension are direct deposited each month. Obviously I'll need to leave that account open in case anything comes through in my dad's name in the near future. But should I be opening a new checking account for my mom and have the above organizations start direct depositing into her new account? Can the credit union get into that money at all? Finally, in the meantime, I plan to just stop paying the credit union for either the car or the credit card. How long should I wait before I contact them to report my dad's death? It would seem that I should try and sell the mobile home and get the money from the current joint account ($9000) into my mom's new account pronto. Any help would be greatly appreciated! Thank You.
    0 Votes

    • 35x35
      Feb, 2011
      Bill
      Sally, I think that you need to speak to a lawyer experienced in probate law ASAP. There are requirements to report your dad's death and there can be serious penalties for not doing so. Also, there could be a problem selling the mobile home with your dad's name on the title. The property may need to go through probate. Find out from the attorney if the 'or' between your parents' names will allow her to transfer title before probate.

      For instance, your dad's death needs to be reported to the Social Security Administration. According to the Social Security Administration, when a social security beneficiary dies, "a family member or other person responsible for the beneficiary's affairs should do the following:
      • Promptly notify Social Security of the beneficiary's death by calling SSA toll-free at 1-800-772-1213. (TTY 1-800-325-0778.)
      • If monthly benefits were being paid via direct deposit, notify the bank or other financial institution of the beneficiary's death. Request that any funds received for the month of death and later be returned to Social Security as soon as possible.
      • If benefits were being paid by check, DO NOT CASH any checks received for the month in which the beneficiary died or thereafter. Return the checks to Social Security as soon as possible."

      If your Mom was living with your Dad at the time he died, she is entitled to a one time survivors benefit of $255. She is NOT entitled to continue receiving his checks. In fact, a Social Security recipient must have survived the entire month to be entitled to the payment. For example, if a recipient dies on April 28th, the payment made on May 3rd for April's benefits will have to be returned.

      I think it is an excellent idea to have your mom open up an account only in her name and have all her deposits made there. Make sure that your Mom does not use the Credit Union account again. I am not sure, but using it after your dad's death may create more problems for her and potentially tie her to the debt which otherwise may not be her legal responsibility. Speak with the attorney about this and ask about community property issues (which come into play, if you live in a community property state). If your mom is not legally liable for the debt, then assets that are solely in her name are not going to be subject to the creditor's claims.

      0 Votes

  • 35x35
    Jan, 2011
    Paulette
    In 1996 I paid cash for a 3/4 acre lot in the amount of $10K. I then financed and had a home moved onto the property; paying all the expenses of getting set up, etc. I remarried in 1996, and have been making payments on my home which will be paid for this month. The title is in my former name before I remarried. I intend to keep the title in my former name. Should I change the former last name to my married name. Will this be considered still my privated property altho my husband has helped me to improvements to my property. On the other hand, he has a place to live also. I have not made a will since I've married him. I need to know if I should die, does he have a living right to live on this property? Do I have the right to put in will he can live on property until he should remarry? I do not want another woman living in my house; neither do my 2 children and 5 g/chidren. I am willing for him to live in house until then. I feel that would be only fair. I think he would remarry as he is the type that will. I am 72 yrs. old and he is 67 yrs. old. I know I need to do a will, but am not quite sure how to word the will and what rights he or myself have. Thank you for your advice.
    0 Votes

    • 35x35
      Jan, 2011
      Bill
      You need to create a will or trust. Consult with a lawyer in your state who has estate planning experience and has drafted wills and trusts. Your wish that your husband have the right to reside in the property until he marries can be accomplished in at least three ways. The challenge is structuring the will, trust, or conveyance of the property in such a manner that it not conflict with your state's statutes and case law. That is where an experienced attorney is worth his or her hourly rate.
      0 Votes

  • 35x35
    Jan, 2011
    Cindy
    Deceased spouse due to cancer, no medical insurance, need to file bankruptcy. Is the life insurance policy going to be taken to satisfy the bankruptcy?
    0 Votes

    • 35x35
      Jan, 2011
      Bill
      It depends on the type of bankruptcy you are filing, the state you live in, and the actual value of the life insurance policy. I strongly urge you to speak with an experienced bankruptcy attorney.
      0 Votes

  • 35x35
    Dec, 2010
    If you cannot afford an attorney, call your county bar association and ask for the name of the organization in your area that helps people with low or no income. Make an appointment with that organization, and bring all of your documents regarding your spouse's debts, insurance, and related paperwork to that meeting. An attorney or paralegal will advise you accordingly.
    0 Votes

  • 35x35
    Oct, 2010
    Edna
    My husband died recently, May 2010. He did have one credit card in his name, and I am getting calls from a collection agency, but I refuse to answer them in case they get frustrated and mix me up. However, I am getting one of his hospital bills that I took him to for an emergency before he was airlifted to Las Vegas where died 10 days later. The local hospital is trying to get me to pay for the balance of the hospital (Most of it was paid by his HMO insurance. The balance of $405.00 is owing. I did not sign him in. He signed himself in. Am I liable for his hospital or doctor bills, as I am getting his doctor bills, too, balances not paid by his insurance. I get his S.S. now, and do not have enough money coming in to pay extra bills. That is the only income that I have. Am I liable to pay his medical bills. The hospital sent me a questionnaire-type application to see if I can afford to pay for it, or, if I am eligible to have help in paying it off. They want my whole life information which I feel uncomfortable in giving it to them. Please advise.
    0 Votes

    • 35x35
      Oct, 2010
      Bill
      Do not pay anything to any medical service provider until you consult with a lawyer in your state who has experience in your state's probate laws. As mentioned above, the deceased's estate is responsible for the debt and not you necessarily. If after reviewing your situation your lawyer says you are responsible for the debt, then ask him or her to to help you negotiate a payment plan. If your lawyer says you are not responsible for the debt, then by no means should you pay the callers a dime. If there is anything in my reply here that I want you remember it is this: A collection agent or hospital billing department is in the business of getting your money and not giving you complete or accurate advice about your legal rights and liabilities. Just because a caller tells you to pay a bill does not necessarily mean you owe it.
      0 Votes

    • 35x35
      Dec, 2010
      Tammie
      I married on a whirlwind. I knew him for six month then we got married. We where married for two months and he committed suicide. He does not have a Will. Am I responsible for his debts (5 credit cards, a truck, and a house with a by-owner finance)? The only thing we have of value is a used motorcycle we payed off after we were married. In the State of Texas am I responsible for his debts. There is a life insurance in an ex girl friends name. That is all I know about. I am not on his checking account so the bank will not release any information. I cannot afford a lawyer. Please Help if possible!
      0 Votes

  • 35x35
    May, 2010
    Bill
    It would be foolish for me to comment on your situation without reading the title to the property and learning more about the facts in your situation. I am wondering why you believe you have a 1/3 life estate. I am also curious if Arkansas law allows life estates to be divided in the manner you suggest. Customarily, a life estate is conveyed to one person and not a class, as is suggested here. Consult with an attorney in Arkansas who has experience in real property law.
    0 Votes

  • 35x35
    May, 2010
    LadyC
    In Arkansas, father passed intestate leaving two grown childen from previous marriage and a wife. Deeds to (previously owned) land are in his name only. The 1/3 life estate, does that mean spouse owns 1/3 of all property or just have a life estate in 1/3 and would their 1/3 primarily be the residential home residing in or that would have to be agreed upon.
    0 Votes

  • 35x35
    Apr, 2010
    Bill
    Your friend should follow the law in her state and probate the decedent's estate to preserve any rights she has regarding her deceased spouse's debts. She may have liability if she resides in a community property state and the debt benefited the family. Recommend that your friend consult with an attorney in her state about the estate and tell her to ask about her liability regarding the decedent's debts.
    0 Votes

  • 35x35
    Apr, 2010
    Bill
    Collection agents are not your friend's attorney. The legal advice from collection agents is usually incomplete or wrong and is always self-serving. Your story is a perfect illustration of my generalization. The collection agent's argument that the spouse of the deceased has liability for the decedent's debt is incorrect. The agent's statement that the spouse will be taken to criminal court is ridiculous, wrong, and unrelated to any legal theory I can conceive. Politely stated, the collection agent is a darned fibber. Your friend does not owe the debt, and would be throwing her money away if she paid the collection agent a dime.
    0 Votes

  • 35x35
    Mar, 2010
    Daniel
    I am writing for a friend whose husband died. He had taken out a payday loan from money & more, iowa city, iowa for $500. she did not know anything about the loan and wasn't informed until nearly 4 weeks after her husband died. we took death certificate to the loan center and they said it was taken care of. however now telecheck has begun calling her and telling her that if she doesn't pay the $500 she will be taken to criminal court because it was a joint checking accout. The bank can confirm that the signature on the check was her husband and the loan was only in his name. Can criminal charges really be filed against her?? Please advise. Thank You!!
    0 Votes

  • 35x35
    Mar, 2010
    Bill
    There are too many facts missing from your message for me to offer a useful observation. For the sake of argument I will assume you have not made any payments on the credit card in question, and you have not validated the debt. I will also assume you did not sign the credit card contract or use the account. Assuming all of the above, the debt belongs to your deceased spouse's estate. You are not responsible for repaying it, despite what the person on the other end of the telephone claims. As I mentioned above, a collection agent is not your attorney so do not believe legal advice from a person who has a vested interest in extracting money from you. Validate the debt. Take all of the documents you can find relating to the debt and the decedent's estate to an attorney in Washington State who can review them in person. Ask the attorney to give you his or her opinion regarding your liability. If you have no liability then ask the attorney to draft a letter to the creditor explaining your rights under the FDCRA and that their continued harassment will result in a lawsuit.
    0 Votes

  • 35x35
    Mar, 2010
    rick
    I live in Washington state. My wife passed three years ago. Since that time I learned I was not responsible for some of her accoounts. But when I questioned another they said my wife opened it as a "joint account" credit card. I never signed any application nor do they have my SS#. They do business in a common law state.They also say that they don't have, nor are required to keep any applications for accounts past three yrs old. Would I not have to sign an application before becomming a party to a "joint account"?
    0 Votes

  • 35x35
    Feb, 2010
    Bill
    You seem to believe you are responsible for either the payments on the vehicle or the deficiency judgment that may result if the vehicle is repossessed and sold at auction. You may be proceeding from a false assumption. Reread the article above to understand your rights and liabilities. One last observation: The last person you should be accepting legal advice from is a collection agent. A collection agent is not your attorney. The legal advice from collection agents is usually incomplete or inaccurate and is always self-serving.
    0 Votes

  • 35x35
    Feb, 2010
    Cindy
    My husband just died. He had a truck loan only in his name for a truck that he owed more than it is worth. While the finance company come after me for what is owed if I turn the truck in. I heard they will auction it and ask me the pay the difference between what is owed and what it sold for at the auction.
    0 Votes

  • 35x35
    Apr, 2010
    Suzi
    My friend's husband just died. There was no will. The house and car were in his name only--the loans on them are far more than they are worth. His debts exceed his assets by many thousand dollars, but everything was in his name only. She wants to just "walk away" without any type of estate administration. If there's no estate administration and she just leaves, is there any chance she can become liable for his debt?
    0 Votes

  • 35x35
    Feb, 2010
    Bill
    I surmise based on the context of which page on Bills.com you asked your question that your husband is deceased. If so, see the Dept. of Education Discharge/Cancellation Web page for more information.
    0 Votes

  • 35x35
    Feb, 2010
    P
    Are student plus loans forgiven that are in my husbands name in the state of Texas?
    0 Votes

  • 35x35
    Feb, 2010
    Bill
    I think many people get confused by the legal profession's use of the word "estate." In the law of wills and trusts, an estate is the decedent's rights, possessions, and liabilities. A decedent's estate must be probated. I would encourage you to re-read my answer above in light of the definition I offered here, and I think it will clarify a family's responsibility for a decedent's debts. One last thought: Do not be surprised if a customer service representative (CSR) at one of the credit card companies contacts you and states that you owe the debt, and wouldn't you like to take care of the debt because your spouse will rest easier knowing you paid it, etc. Using the most polite language you can muster, tell the CSR he or she is lying and that you do not appreciate such behavior.
    0 Votes

  • 35x35
    Feb, 2010
    Carl
    My wife passed away suddenly in her sleep and it wwill be several weeks before I get the cause and manner of her death from the Medical Examiner, due to lab work that needs to be completed. We did not have a will, however all major assets such as our house and vehicle were in both of our names. Our checking account was joint. My wife had approximately three credit cards in her name only and I have notified these company's to advise of my wife's passing, and they advised they will transfer her accounts to an agency that will check so see if there was anything collections vialable via probate court. We do not have a case in probate court. I reside in Florida. Will I be liable to pay the credit cards only in my wife's name. Thanks
    5 Votes

  • 35x35
    Jan, 2010
    Bill
    What you described in your message is the decedent's estate, which must be probated. I advise finding a California attorney to help guide you through the process. Alternatively, the Sacramento Public Library has a list of resources to help people understand Probate Law. The Los Angeles Superior Court Probate Department contains a great deal of self-help information.
    0 Votes

  • 35x35
    Jan, 2010
    j
    My husband died intestate in California. We had separated and were living apart, but did not have a final divorce judgment. After we separated he took out several credit cards in his name only. I never signed any paperwork with regard to these accounts and only discovered them in going through his mail. When he died he had about $5,000 in the bank and a truck in his name (owed about $10k on the truck). There is no estate to administer. Will I be liable to pay those credit cards of his?
    0 Votes

  • 35x35
    Jan, 2010
    Bill
    Were you a joint account holder on the credit cards in question? If yes, you have liability. If no, then as a practical matter your spouse's estate has liability. In community property states, creditors have the legal right to demand payment from surviving spouses. However, in community property states it is rare for creditors to file lawsuits against widows and widowers for credit card debt.
    0 Votes

  • 35x35
    Jan, 2010
    jen
    My husband died intestate in California. After we separated, but did not have a final divorce decree he took out and ran up several credit card bills. Will I be required to pay those bills?
    0 Votes

  • 35x35
    Dec, 2009
    Bill
    You did not mention your state of residence. I cannot give you an answer to your question because such an answer would be dependent on your state's statutes and case law. However, even if I knew your state of residence I would be reluctant to speculate because such a case would depend greatly on the facts and circumstances. Accordingly, I recommend you consult with an attorney in your state with experience in consumer or wills & trusts litigation.
    0 Votes

  • 35x35
    Dec, 2009
    Jenn
    My Husband has died recently, now the Life Insurance policy is being contested due to the fact he died within 2 years of the policy (20 months to be exact. What are the chances of them paying? Thank you
    0 Votes

    • 35x35
      May, 2011
      Jack
      All Life insurance companies take a look at the policy during the 2 years after issue . They can only deny the claim if your husband gave misleading or false answers to questions asked at the time of application. So your chances of receiving payment are close to 100% from any reputable company.
      1 Votes

  • 35x35
    Dec, 2009
    Bill
    A PLUS loan is a Parent Loan for Undergraduate Students. This answer assumes the decedent had a PLUS loan. According to the US Dept. of Education Web page Collections Guide to Defaulted Student Loans, "A loan can be discharged if the borrower dies or if the borrower of a PLUS loan (whether a student or parent) dies. A PLUS loan made to a parent borrower is also discharged in the event of the death of the student on whose behalf the loan was obtained."
    0 Votes

    • 35x35
      Jun, 2011
      Sara
      Bill, My husband had a student loan in NJ that both his mother and I co-signed. Are we automatically responsible for this loan now that he has passed?
      0 Votes

    • 35x35
      Jun, 2011
      Bill
      First, consult with a lawyer about probating your spouse's estate. Second, see the Bills.com resource Student Loan & Deceased Borrower to learn more about this issue.
      0 Votes

    • 35x35
      Jul, 2011
      helen
      If the borower of a PARENT PLUS LOAN gets married after taking this loan, does the new spouse become responsible, if borrower dies?
      0 Votes

    • 35x35
      Jul, 2011
      Bill
      In a common law state, almost certainly not. In a community property state, liability may be possible depending on the state's family law. Consult with a lawyer who has family law experience for a precise answer.
      0 Votes

  • 35x35
    Dec, 2009
    Jenn
    REgarding Deceased spouse's debt--can you give more information about Federal Student Loans in the deceased name but on behalf of the daughter who was the student.
    2 Votes