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What heirs need to know about paying debts after a death

If you are a surviving spouse, family member, heir, beneficiary or an executor of an estate, you may have many important issues to attend to in the aftermath of a loved one’s death. While a decedent’s debts are usually erased upon death, a blog posted last month discussed situations in which debts may remain.

While working your way through the probate or estate administration process, it is important to know how to deal with debt and collection matters that may arise.

  • Debt collectors: Creditors and collection agencies will try to obtain payment from surviving family members even if they have no right to do so. Any collection attempts should be referred to the executor of the estate.
  • Credit reports and notifications: The executor should notify the three main credit reporting agencies of the death and have them reject any requests for future credit. This can help prevent identity theft issues. He or she should also request a credit report for the decedent.
  • Paying bills: The executor is responsible for paying outstanding bills — after verifying that the debts are collectable.
  • Continued use of credit: Co-signers and guarantors of credit cards and loans will be responsible for remaining debts on those accounts. However, authorized users are not responsible and should discontinue using credit established by the primary card holder before his or her death.
  • Dividing assets: Do not immediately begin dividing assets among the surviving family members and other heirs. All of the estate debts should be settled first to avoid potential problems.

Many people have a difficult time tending to estate and probate matters, especially during the emotional mourning process. During this difficult time, let an experienced attorney from The Hughes Law Firm, P.C., guide you, handling the legal details on your behalf.

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