When the estate settlement process begins, it's common for debts from the deceased to surface. While some of the obligations might be deemed invalid, not all will. As an executor, it's easy to wonder what level of responsibility you have to repay these expenses.
The immediate question many people have is — who is responsible? As the executor, you have financial control over the estate of the deceased, so if there are debts that need to be paid, it's easy to conclude that you need to pay these debts on your own, but it's not always the case.
Generally, the only time an executor is responsible for a debt is if they also shared liability for the debt. For instance, if you co-signed for the debt or you are a surviving spouse, you might legally be responsible. Otherwise, you are not.
In some cases, the deceased does not have enough money in their estate to pay off their debts. If this is the scenario you face, don't believe that you have to add additional funds to the estate to cover the bills. When there is not enough money in the estate to meet the obligations, there is a probate process that can prioritize debts for payment.
As part of the process, the court will review all the debts of the deceased and determine which liabilities will be paid based on the value of the estate. You are only required to pay what the state prioritizes.
The debt repayment process can get tricky at times if the executor does not take care of his or her responsibilities correctly. In these instances, the executor could be responsible for the debt. For instance, it is the responsibility of the executor to pay all debts that are on file, provided there is enough money in the estate.
If there is enough money to cover the debt and the executor does not pay, the creditor can file suit against the estate and the executor for non-payment. In this case, the court could determine that the executor erroneously spent the estate funds and demand that they pay the obligation. If the estate has the money to cover a debt, you need to ensure you handle it.
Dealing with the debts of a deceased individual can be a bit of a challenge at times, and if you don't go about the matter correctly, you could inadvertently implicate yourself. Allow a probate attorney to help you sort through the process to ensure you are protected. For more information, check out a website like https://www.rmstoneattorney.com/ today.