Who is responsible to pay the bills when a person dies?

4 answers | Last updated: Sep 14, 2017
Creolegirl asked...

Who is responsible to pay the bills when a person dies? Is the trust responsible?

Expert Answers

Barbara Repa, a Caring.com senior editor, is an attorney, a journalist specializing in aging issues, and the author of Your Rights in the Workplace (Nolo), now in its 10th edition.

If the person who died left behind a trust naming a trustee or a will naming an executor, then that person is responsible for: -- doing an inventory of the property owned at death -- totaling up final bills and expenses and paying them, and -- distributing the remaining property as the trust or will directs.

If there is no person named to be trustee or executor--which would be rare--then a relative or close friend can petition the local probate court for authority to proceed with winding up the estate, which would involve paying final bills and divvying up property.

Community Answers

Awesomemawmaw answered...

But..........the person who is named the executor is NOT responsible personally for whatever debt if left by the deceased, correct? If the deceased does not have enough money in his trust/estate to cover outstanding debts, then those debts (unless cosigned by someone) are dissolved. Isn't this correct???

A fellow caregiver answered...

I, also, am concerned about debts. My brother opened up a charge account joint with mom. Mom is first and he is second signee. He opened up this account, under undue influence. Mom was diagnosed with dementia at the time he opened this account.

My brother charges his entertainment on this account. Why should mom have to pay for his fun? My brother is 62 years old, lives w/ mom, free/clear and has manipulated mom his entire life. I am named executor on mom's Will. My brother seems to think that mom has Millions of dollars.

The credit card is held by the bank where mom has her auto deposit for her pension and soc security. My brother and I have jt checking w/ mom, thou he is living w/ mom, he has access to the checking account bank book.

Long story, short, I asked the bank about this credit card, and charges made. Since my brother is second signee, he would be responsible for those charges after mom passes away.

What really irritates me, what if my brother passes away first? Then mom would be responsible. However, I would fight this, stating that it was opened under undue influence. Just another case to spend court fees on. Just another issue brewing with my brother... what a pain. Thank you for letting me vent....

Barbara kate repa answered...

To answer awesomemawmaw's question about the executor's liability for debts: You're right. The executor is not personally liable for paying those debts, unless he or she specifically agreed to be, such as by co-signing a loan. If the deceased's assets at death won't cover the debts owed, then the debts are ranked according to a hierarchy set by state law. (Death and taxes appear near the tops of most lists--with taxes and final expenses paid off before other debts.) Sometimes, named beneficiaries are surprised to learn they don't inherit what they thought they would because a creditor is entitled to take the money or the asset has to be liquidated to pay the debt.