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When I die, what happens to my debts?

| May 22, 2020 | Estate planning |

Death is an uncomfortable topic that few people want to broach when it comes to themselves and their loved ones. Even so, tackling the question early enough might help you to plan ahead for how people inherit your property. 

One of the biggest concerns you may have is whether debt becomes inheritable. The short answer is that it is possible, but there are smaller details that determine if or when this happens. 

The estate might pay 

Some assets pass immediately to your heirs and some go through probate. Forbes notes that the estate that goes through probate owes the remaining debts not canceled out by death. If there are not enough assets to pay the debts, then the debt usually ends here. 

Family members might become liable 

When someone passes away with debt, creditors often try to convince family members who had nothing to do with the transaction to pay it. However, generally speaking, family members might only become liable if they cosigned on the loan or acted as co-applicants. 

In community property states, widowed spouses might also become liable for debts their partners racked up during the marriage. However, Tennessee is an equitable distribution state, so that does not apply here, though there might be other instances where spouses become liable. 

The bottom line 

If collectors continue to harass your family members anyway, there are actions they may take to put a stop to this. An even better option you might consider is planning ahead for the potential of debts surviving your death. After all, the last thing you want to do is saddle your family and estate with debts instead of assets upon your leaving them behind, especially dependents.