What Happens to Debt When I Die?

Senior man with newspaper using laptop
Dear Experian,

In the event of a family member or spouse's death, who becomes responsible for the deceased's debt? What if there is no insurance or money left by deceased?


Dear MPL,

What happens to an individual's debt when they die depends on several factors, such as the type of debt, whether there was anyone listed jointly on the debt, and whether the deceased person lived in a community property state if they were married.

What Happens to Someone's Debt When They Die

When someone dies, any debt left behind generally becomes the responsibility of their estate. The individual named executor of the estate is responsible for distributing the assets of the deceased to repay debts.
In instances where the deceased did not have insurance and there are not enough assets to cover what is owed, it becomes more complicated.

For example, if there is credit card debt, anyone who is a joint account holder may be held responsible, even if they are not the ones who made the charges. If the deceased individual was married and living in a community property state, their surviving spouse may be legally responsible for their debts, even if they were not aware of the debt prior to their spouse's death.

Because there are so many legal factors to consider, it's best to consult with a probate attorney who specializes in such matters.

What to Do if You Are the Executor of an Estate

When someone dies, their credit report is not deleted right away. If you are the surviving spouse or the executor of an estate, you should notify both the Social Security Administration (SSA) and any creditors of their death as soon as possible.

Although Experian periodically receives notification of the deceased from the SSA, it's a good idea to notify all three of the credit reporting agencies as well.

To notify Experian, you will need to provide a copy of the death certificate. If you are not the spouse and would like a copy of the deceased's credit report, you also will need to send proof that you are the executor of the estate, such as a copy of the signed and sealed court document indicating executorship. You can submit these documents either online at experian.com/upload, or by mailing them to: Experian, P.O. Box 9701 Allen, TX 75013.

Once Experian receives the documentation, an indicator will be added to the deceased's credit file. notifying anyone accessing the credit report that the individual is deceased. The deceased indicator helps to prevent someone from using their identification information to commit fraud.

Thanks for asking.
The "Ask Experian" team

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