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What happens to the debts owed by a relative who has died?

Many California residents have debts they owe to creditors. In some cases, a person might die before they’ve paid back their creditors. It’s fair to wonder what happens with those debts if you are a relative of the deceased.

Does debt go away when a person dies?

If a person dies while in debt, it doesn’t mean their debts disappear. Their estate is responsible for paying any unpaid debts they left behind, and it’s the responsibility of the executor of the estate to repay the debt.

Are you responsible for paying your deceased relative’s debts?

You’re not responsible for your deceased relative’s debts. The only person in the family who would be responsible is their surviving spouse. This is part of community property law. However, if a person dies while still owing debt and was not married or was widowed, the debt could die along with them.

If your deceased relative’s creditors start contacting you or other family members to collect on the debt or they have collection agencies do it for them, you are not responsible for satisfying those debts. You can file a complaint against any creditors who begin harassing you. If they continue to contact you, they are in violation of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.

There are exceptions to the rule regarding your responsibility for a relative’s debt. If you are a co-signer on a loan or credit card your relative took out, you would have to pay back that particular debt after their death. Another exception to that rule is if you received property that still has debt on it, such as a car. In that situation, you would be responsible for paying off the debt on that property.

In most cases, you can breathe easy knowing that you’re not responsible for your deceased relative’s debts. However, it’s important to know your state’s laws and exceptions.