Can unsecured creditor collect against deceased debtors mortgage-free house?

by Deborah
(Boca Raton, FL, Palm Beach county)

My question is: If an unmarried deceased person has fully paid for their house (willed to their children), but has outstanding unsecured debt (credit cards), can those creditors collect against the value of the house? Could the children potentially be forced to sell the house in order to pay off the unsecured debt?

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Oct 16, 2012
Can unsecured creditor collect against deceased debtors mortgage-free house?


After someone dies, his or her estate (everything the deceased owns) goes through the probate process. The person the deceased named in his or her will to be the estate's executor is responsible for initiating this process and for notifying the deceased's creditors that the process has begun so that they can file claims with the probate court in an effort to get paid out of the estate's assets. The executor must pay the debts in a certain order -- certain kinds of debts take priority over others. (Note: When a creditor like a credit card company is owed a relatively small amount of money, they often write off the debt they are owed by the deceased rather than filing a claim to get paid.)

As many debts as possible must be paid before any of the deceased's assets can go to his or her beneficiaries. Therefore, if there is not sufficient cash in the estate to pay all of the creditors, then assets will have to be sold to pay them. But, if there are not enough assets to pay all of the deceased's debts then the creditors that are not paid are generally out of luck.

I don't know the details of the deceased's estate -- whether or not there is sufficient cash to pay his or her debts, the total amount of the credit card debt owed, nor do I have any information about the financial resources of you and your siblings. Therefore, I recommend that you go here Ask Estate Lawyers Now. The attorney you communicate with can tell you what your options are if you and your siblings want to hold on the house based on the information you provide.

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