When a family member dies and it is time to administer his or her estate, most people think about the distribution of assets. However, it is also necessary to pay debts owed by the decedent. Most debts are paid out of the estate prior to distribution of the remaining assets during a Texas probate.
Any creditors not paid from the estate may attempt to collect the debt from other family members. In most cases, relatives are not obligated to pay those debts. Unfortunately, that often will not stop creditors from attempting to convince you that you are responsible for the debt owed to them by the deceased.
However, certain circumstances may require a person to pay the debt of a decedent. If the debt was joint or a family member co-signed a debt, he or she may be responsible for its payment. A widow or widower living in a community property state may have to pay the debt since any property or debts acquired during the marriage may be considered joint. If there is a mortgage note on the family home, the estate may or may not be able to pay it. A surviving spouse may decide whether to keep paying the note and remain in the home, or sell it and pay off the mortgage.
This article provides a general answer to what can sometimes be a complicated question. There are often exceptions to every rule. Therefore, relying solely on this article for your specific circumstances is not recommended. Even though family members are generally not personally liable for a Texas decedent's debts, a review of the debts owed by an estate should be conducted. On one hand, no one wants to pay debts that he or she does not legally owe, but if you do owe the debt for some reason, not doing something about it could cause you financial problems in the long run.
Source: FindLaw, "Debts After Death", , Aug. 27, 2014