Old debts for a deceased person

by Cathy

Is the estate required to pay really old debts? We are getting calls to pay debts from 2006, and we have no idea if the charges are warranted or may have been disputed.

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Dec 03, 2011
Old debts for a deceased person
by: Debtcollectionanswers.com

Has the estate been probated? The probate process includes an orderly court-supervised means of paying the debts a deceased person leaves behind. During the process each of the deceased's creditors must formally ask to be paid out of the deceased's assets. (The assets are referred to as an estate.) Some states have a more informal process for getting this done.

If the deceased left behind a will, the person he or she designated in the will to be the executor of his estate initiates the probate process and works with the probate court to settle the estate. Once the deceased's debts have been paid (assuming there are assets in the estate to pay them), the remaining assets are distributed to the deceased's beneficiaries as spelled out in the will.

If some or all of the debts cannot be paid, then with a couple exceptions, the deceased's creditors are out of luck and are not legally entitled to look to the deceased's relatives. The exceptions are: if there is a co-signer on any of the unpaid debts or if the deceased has a surviving spouse. The unpaid creditors are entitled to look to co-signers for payment and to the surviving spouse for payment. (AZ is a community property state and so any debts incurred by one spouse during a couple's marriage are the legal obligation of both spouses.)

If you need help with the probate process, it's best to consult with an estate planning or probate attorney. If the probate process is completed and the deceased's creditors are contacting you, unless either of the exceptions spelled out in the previous paragraph apply to you, then you are not obligated to pay the debts.

Go here for more information about the debts of a deceased person, deceased person’s debt FAQ.

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