The obligation to repay debts after a death in the family

Losing a loved one can be a terribly difficult event in the life of a Tennessee family. Not only must the survivors begin the difficult process of learning to live without the decedent in their life but they must also begin the challenging process of settling the decedent’s affairs and managing their estate.

If a decedent had an estate plan in place prior to their death, this can help ease the process of disposing of their assets. Legal tools such as wills and trusts can help make clear the intentions of the decedent so that the estate administrator and the survivors know what was intended for the disposition of the decedent’s possessions.

However, many individuals die with more than just assets: they pass away carrying debts. It can be overwhelming for a family to learn of credit card debts, mortgage payments, outstanding medical bills and other obligations carried by the decedent prior to their passing. While in most cases these debts will be managed by the estate representative that the decedent assigned and should paid off through the estate, in some cases survivors may be liable for the decedent’s debts.

For example, if a person owned a home with their spouse and both of their names were on the home’s mortgage, one spouse may continue to be liable for the mortgage payments after their spouse passes on. Similarly, if a couple shared a credit card and one partner dies the other may continue to be responsible for paying off any balance that was incurred on the credit device.

Debt is an issue that is often discussed after a death. If it is not properly planned for, though, the debts of a decedent can become a major problem for a survivor who is grieving for the loss of their loved one. Those who have had to take on debts after a death may wish to consult with bankruptcy attorneys who can advise them of their options for securing debt relief.