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Is My Family Responsible for My Debts?

Here's what you need to know before you borrow or buy on credit

For debt collectors you believe are calling regarding legitimate debts, the FTC recommends simply referring the caller to the executor or administrator handling the deceased person's estate.

Debts That Remain After You Die
A lot of people wonder what happens to the outstanding obligations they had once they die. Do those debts simply disappear? Or could relatives be forced to pay those bills?

In the case of credit card debt and other obligations, rest assured that your family members aren't responsible for paying off your bills once you're gone.

"I always advise people to be informed in advance about any debt-related issues, particularly when it comes to potentially 'gray' areas like paying the debts of a deceased relative," says Money of InCharge Debt Solutions. "The fact is that you are not liable for the debts of any family member, with the exception of your spouse, and even in that case the obligations may be limited," she adds.

No one has an obligation to pay the debts of a deceased person who was not their spouse. And even a spouse's obligation may be limited under state probate law.

That's why the FTC advises consumers that if there isn't enough money from a deceased person's estate to cover certain debts, those debts "typically go unpaid" and family members are not responsible for them.

For more information about debt collection and the rights you and family members have under the FDCPA, see "Debt Collection FAQs: A Guide for Consumers."
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