Will My Heirs Have to Pay My Debts After I Pass Away?

When working with an estate planning lawyer, you likely are interested in simplifying your affairs, avoiding taxes, and preserving your assets for your heirs. In many cases, your goal is to ensure your loved ones avoid the expense and time involved in probate proceedings after you pass away. A Florida estate planning lawyer from Kramer Green can help you determine the best methods to avoid probate based on your circumstances.

Your Heirs Generally Will Not Inherit Your Debts

Florida law does not allow your heirs to “inherit” your debts after you pass away. In other words, your creditors, or people or companies to whom you owe debts, cannot pursue your surviving spouse or your children for debts that are solely in your name unless your beneficiary has guaranteed the debt.

Some creditors still will try to pursue your heirs or relatives for debts after your death, even if they cannot legally collect the debts from your heirs. As a result, your heirs need to be aware of their legal rights to refuse to pay the debts and advise those creditors to stop contacting them.

Exceptions in Which Your Heirs May Be Responsible for Your Debts

Some circumstances may exist in which one or more of your heirs or relatives might be responsible for paying a debt that you owe after you pass away. For instance, if your spouse or child co-signed a loan for you, and you pass away, then your spouse or child still will be responsible for paying back that loan. In that situation, your spouse or child took on a legal obligation to pay the debt when they co-signed the loan, so your death leaves them solely responsible for the debt.

Another situation that might make an heir responsible for your debts after death is if your heir is appointed as the personal representative of your estate and he or she refuses or fails to pay your legitimate debts. One important function of an personal representative is to take inventory of all estate assets, liquidate them as needed, and pay outstanding debts that you owed at the time of your death. If your personal representative fails to pay those debts or illegally uses assets for other purposes, the personal representative  may have to pay back those debts using his or her own money.

Your Estate Is Responsible for Paying Your Debts

Nonetheless, if your heirs open an estate for you after your death, your creditors can file claims against your estate for the debts they are owed. The personal representative  of the estate then is responsible for paying all legally valid debts to creditors out of the estate assets before the assets are distributed to your heirs as outlined in your will with a few exceptions If you didn’t leave a will, once the debts are paid, the executor will distribute any remaining assets according to the laws of intestate succession under Florida Statutes §§732.101 – 732.111, which are state laws that determine who receives a person’s property when he or she dies without a will.

Look to Kramer Green for Help with Your Estate Planning Matter

The Florida estate planning attorneys of Kramer, Green, Zuckerman, Greene & Buchsbaum, P.A. are prepared to assist you and your family through every step of creating the estate plan that best meets the needs of you and your family. We know how to most effectively and efficiently draft an estate plan that achieves your goals, protects your heirs, and avoids the time and cost involved in probate proceedings.

Our objective is to guide you through the complex legal matters that estate planning can involve. In addition, we want to help you lessen the burden on the surviving loved ones you will leave behind. Contact our office today at (954) 966-2112 or reach out to us online to schedule a time to discuss your legal estate planning issues with our attorneys.

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