When a person passes away, they often leave behind a collection of assets or a estate that is passed on to a set of beneficiaries. At times, they often leave behind debts that also need to resolved. The main questions that people have is who is responsible for paying them?
The Basics of Debt Transfer After Death
While a deceased person’s debts are not normally transferred to beneficiaries, an estate (not next of kin) is usually responsible for paying off those debts.
The estate and deceased person’s assets can be used to resolve outstanding debts before it can be divvied up and accordingly dispersed to the beneficiaries. For example, if a house is left behind with an outstanding mortgage, the house can be sold and money gained from the sale can be used to pay off the remaining mortgage before being divided amongst the beneficiaries.
An attorney can help you settle debts that need to be paid by the estate after a person passes away.
Are Conservators Liable for Debts?
Although conservators are responsible for paying off a protected person’s bills and debts and, in general, managing their finances, they are not liable themselves for paying off debts should the protected person pass away. The only case where a conservator may be personally liable to pay off debts is if they acted negligently and were the cause of excessive debts piling up. Even if this is the case, the case would likely have to go to court and the conservator would have to be found to have indeed acted negligibly.
If you are a conservator who is managing a protected person’s finances, you won’t have to worry about being personally liable for their debts. However, you may play some role in helping use the estate to pay off debts in the event a protected person passes away. If that is the case, you should work with your attorney and the courts to see what your responsibilities in the process will be. You may be the “point person” who creditors and companies will work with to resolve a particular debt, pay bills or negotiate any payment plans, debt reductions, etc.
How Can You Curb Potential Debt?
The best way to simplify the debt collection process before a person passes away is to:
- Resolve as many debts as possible beforehand.
- Discourage any new contracts or debts from being made as the person’s end of life nears.
- Keep all financial, billing and contact information up to date.
As always, it’s best to work with an attorney to sort out debts and make sure the estate can be used to resolve them before the protected person passes away.
Disclaimer: this is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be legal advice. If you need legal counsel, please contact an attorney directly.