Dealing with debt when a spouse dies

Generally speaking, New York residents aren’t required to pay a deceased spouse’s outstanding debts. However, if an individual’s name was also on a credit card, mortgage or other loan, he or she could still be responsible for making payments on those balances each month. In some cases, a deceased spouse’s debts will be paid out of the decedent’s estate. It is important to point out that creditors or debt collectors are not allowed to mislead people into thinking that they must pay a deceased individual’s debts.

Creditors or debt collectors may contact a surviving spouse to find out who is representing the estate. They may also contact a surviving spouse about a debt if he or she is the executor. In such a scenario, a person or company seeking to collect a debt cannot imply that the executor must use personal assets to pay the balance unless he or she agreed to do so.

Assuming that an individual isn’t legally responsible for a debt, failing to pay it will have little bearing on his or her credit score. It may be a good idea for people to check their credit reports to ensure that their accounts are in good standing. It may be possible to dispute any inaccurate information that is reported to a credit agency.

If a debt is held in a single person’s name, he or she is responsible for paying down that balance. If that person dies, a creditor generally can’t go after the surviving former spouse for payment. An attorney may be helpful to those who are dealing with creditor claims after an individual dies.

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