Bill collectors may be calling the family of a deceased person, and it is important to understand there are many reasons why you as the Estate’s Administrator or Executor may be obligated to pay these bills. Generally, assets such as IRA’s 401k’s, joint bank accounts and insurance benefits are non-probate assets.
However, any assets that are not left through a trust or other form of beneficiary will need to go through probate court before the family can disburse the funds. Under the general orders of a probate case, the family is required to pay any outstanding debts from the proceeds of the probate estate. This includes direct creditors, un-filed tax returns, debt on real property such as homes, etc.
It is important to understand that debt cannot be “passed on to” the next generation. A good example would be if a husband dies, if he had a credit card solely in his name, not a joint account, but a sole and separate debt. That debt will not transfer automatically to the wife. But, that debt can be passed to the Estate if a probate is needed. It is always wise to speak with a Tucson probate attorney before making any decisions about the debts and assets left behind after a loved one has passed away.