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Who pays the debts for an estate?

On Behalf of | Apr 28, 2023 | Wills

When an elderly person passes away, their estate is divided among their heirs. The will provides instructions on how they should do this. The heirs are given assets that were left to them in the will, from financial accounts to tangible assets – like a car, a business or a home.

But what if there are still some debts that also belong to that estate? Maybe the elderly person still had some credit card debt or a remaining phone bill. Perhaps they hadn’t yet paid their Herndon, Virginia property taxes for the year, or they hadn’t paid income taxes. The assets are going to get divided between their heirs, but will the debts?

The estate is responsible

Heirs should not worry about taking on debt that was left to them by their parents. It does not transfer to the next generation the same way that assets do. Unless adult children have co-signed on loans with their parents or something of this nature, those children are not responsible for outstanding debt.

Instead, it is the elderly person’s estate itself that is responsible. Debts often have to be paid before assets can be distributed. This may mean that those heirs will receive less money than they anticipated. Some of the money that was left to them in the will may be needed for paying off debts first. But that does not mean that the heirs are personally responsible for paying off those debts.

This process can get complicated, especially if there are disputes between heirs or confusion regarding the language in the will. Those involved must understand the legal steps they can take as they sort things out.