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Am I responsible for my deceased relative's debt?

Dealing with the debts of a family member who passes away is often very difficult while also dealing with the grief of the loss itself. It can even add to the fears and uncertainty that regularly surround the passing of a family member. If you are worried that you may have to pay for your deceased relative's debt, there is good news. Generally speaking, personal debt is personal debt, and while some debts may transfer after death, most do not.

Where things get tricky, in most instances, is when multiple parties own some portion of a deceased person's debt, or if someone other than the deceased debtor primarily benefited from the debt. For instance, if you and your sibling cosign on a loan to buy a car, and your sibling then passes away before you pay it off, you may face liability for the remaining balance.

Similarly, if your sibling takes out a loan to buy you a car and then passes away, the creditor may pursue you for that debt. However, even in these instances, there are often creative ways to reduce your liability.

Unfortunately, just because you are not legally liable for a debt does not mean that a creditor will not pursue you for it. This is often especially true of credit card lenders.

In many cases, the estate of a deceased person satisfies his or her debts, and any unpaid debts that remain simply die with their owner. If you have personal concerns about how your deceased relative's debt may affect you, don't hesitate to reach out to an experienced attorney to understand your rights and defend your assets.

Source: Findlaw, "Debts After Death," accessed Dec. 15, 2017

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