Are Heirs Responsible for
Their Loved One's Debts?
April 18, 2022
When a person dies in Arizona, the surviving family members may have to trudge through the probate process to settle the decedent's final affairs and distribute the estate's assets to rightful beneficiaries. During probate, the deceased person's assets are collected, debts and taxes are paid, and the remaining assets are transferred to inheritors.
If the person died while owing a debt, the decedent's estate is responsible for paying any unpaid debts. However, there are certain situations where other parties will have to repay the debts. An experienced Arizona estate planning attorney can enlighten you about the probate process and determine who is responsible for paying off a loved one's debts after their passing.
At Simmons & Greene, P.C., we're dedicated to offering experienced legal guidance and reliable advocacy to clients in the legal matters of probate and estate administration. Our trusted attorneys are available to discuss your unique situation and help you understand who is legally obligated to repay a deceased person's debts. We proudly serve clients across Phoenix, Glendale, Chandler, Scottsdale, Mesa, and Peoria, Arizona.
Estate Administration in Arizona
Estate administration can be described as the process of settling a deceased person's final affairs. It involves gathering the estate's assets, paying debts and taxes, and distributing the remaining assets to rightful beneficiaries and heirs in accordance with the provisions of the will or the state's intestate succession laws (if the person died without a will).
Responsibilities of the Executor
In Arizona, the probate court will appoint a personal representative or executor to help settle the decedent's final affairs or handle the estate administration process. Once appointed, the executor will:
Identify and gather all the decedent's probate assets
Assess and determine the actual value of each asset
Locate important documents, including account statements, titles, retirement plans, and insurance policies
Use formal written notices to inform heirs and beneficiaries about probate
Notify creditors about probate by publishing a notice in the local newspaper
Prepare a detailed inventory of the estate's assets and property
Keep all estate property and assets safe throughout the probate process
Determine and pay any unpaid debts
Prepare and file income and estate tax returns
Transfer the remaining estate's assets to inheritors (heirs and beneficiaries)
An experienced attorney can enlighten you about your responsibilities as an executor and determine who is responsible for paying any unpaid debts.
Do I Have to Pay My Loved One's Debts?
No. If your loved one or close relative dies, you are not personally responsible for the decedent's debts. The decedent's estate will be legally responsible for repaying debts. In Arizona, the executor or personal representation will pay any unpaid debts from the estate's assets or money.
Exceptions to the Rule
There are some exceptions where other individuals may be responsible for the deceased person's debts. These include:
If there is a joint account holder on a credit card, the joint account holder will be responsible for the debts.
If there was a co-signer on a loan, the person who co-signed the loan would be responsible for the debts.
State law may require the surviving spouse to pay the unpaid debts.
State law may require the surviving spouse to pay any unpaid debts using community property.
State law may require the personal representative or executor to pay outstanding debts using a jointly-owned property.
A skilled attorney can evaluate the nature of the debts and determine whether the decedent's estate or another person will be responsible for repaying the debts.
How Simmons & Greene, P.C. Can Help
Determining how to repay a loved one's debts following their death often involves a lot of complexities. While the decedent's estate is legally responsible for repaying any debts, there are certain exceptions that make other individuals or entities responsible for the debt. Therefore, if a creditor or debt collector has contacted you regarding a deceased person's debts, it is important that you speak with an experienced estate planning attorney for detailed guidance and to determine the best course of action.
At Simmons & Greene, P.C., our attorneys have devoted their careers to handling complex estate administration matters involving paying unpaid debts. As your legal counsel, we enlighten you about your responsibilities after your loved one's death, determine the debts that must be paid, and explore the various options to repay such unpaid debts. Also, our team will work together with the executor to pay the estate's debts and taxes and carry out other expected duties diligently and efficiently.
Contact Simmons & Greene, P.C. today to schedule a simple case assessment with knowledgeable estate administration attorneys. Our reliable team can offer you the detailed legal counsel and reliable advocacy you need to settle your loved one's debts and administer their estate when they're gone. We're proud to serve clients across Phoenix, Glendale, Chandler, Scottsdale, Mesa, and Peoria, Arizona.