Heirs Not Liable for Decedent’s Debts
There is a pervasive – but incorrect – belief that a person’s heirs are responsible for the person’s debts when they pass away, if their estate is not large enough to pay off the debts. Fortunately for a decedent’s heirs, this is incorrect. An heir or beneficiary is not responsible for paying off a decedent’s debts simply because of his or her relationship to the decedent.
That being said, an heir may (and very likely, will) be held responsible if he or she had co-signed on a loan with the decedent, was a co-owner of a piece of property with the decedent, had taken on a debt in his or her power of attorney or personal representative role for the decedent, prematurely sold real estate inherited from the decedent, and other such scenarios.
If you are not sure about the nature of a debt, please reach out to an attorney familiar with estate administration. They will be able to guide you through the nuances of this process and can help prevent a decedent’s heirs from inadvertently becoming liable when they otherwise are not.