Handling debt after someone dies

How a deceased spouse’s debt will be handled in Pennsylvania will depend on several things. It is important for people to understand how this works may be handled so that they might protect their family members after they pass away.

In general, surviving family members will not be directly liable for repaying the debts of their loved ones when they die. However, any loans or credit cards that are joint accounts will become the sole responsibility of the joint signer. Debts that are only in the name of the decedent will not be the direct responsibility of the surviving spouse.

Creditors are able to submit claims to the estates of people who have died, and the debts will need to be paid out of the proceeds of the estates before the remainders are distributed to the heirs or beneficiaries. This means that surviving spouses who will receive the proceeds of the estate will indirectly pay for their spouses’ debts. Before the assets are distributed, the executor will have to pay the debts in order of priority as outlined by state law.

People may help to ensure that a greater portion of their assets will pass to their intended beneficiaries through careful estate planning. A good estate plan may help to protect assets from the reach of creditors and might include trusts, wills, advance directives and other documents. In the estate plans, people have the opportunity to name executors or trust administrators who will be responsible for administering their estates. People might want to discuss who to name with their attorneys in order to make certain that those who they choose will understand the responsibilities that will come with the task.


The information you obtain at this site is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. You should consult an attorney for advice regarding your individual situation. We invite you to contact us and welcome your calls, letters and electronic mail. Contacting us does not create an attorney-client relationship. Please do not send any confidential information to us until such time as an attorney-client relationship has been established.

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