Who is responsible for deceased spouse’ debt?

Legal Q&ACategory: Estate Planning - Wills & TrustsWho is responsible for deceased spouse’ debt?
Reader asked 5 years ago

When a spouse dies, who is responsible for their debts? Will exists, but no probate is planned until remaining spouse dies.

1 Answers
Dave Alden answered 4 years ago

This is subject to the laws of your state, but generally, debt follows the person inheriting the assets. Also keep in mind that the debt (account) may have been in both spouses names.
You’re right about not needing to probate an estate until the second spouse dies, but contrast this general rule with filing a probate case. A lot of people don’t realize that it’s a little like filing bankruptcy – after death. An estate is created, notices go out and creditors have so many days to file their claims. A lot of times, creditors miss the filing date – and then they’re out of luck.
Depending on the amount of debt of the deceased, probate might make sense. You can look into your state’s laws using some search terms (below) using Legal.com’s free Legal Research tool.
People can (and do) probate cases on their own with the help of Internet research, downloadable forms and self-help law books like How to Probate an Estate. If you’d prefer an attorney to help you, use Legal.com’s Find a Lawyer tool.
— Dave
Alden Law Group
Aviation & Business
Sacramento, CA
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