A caller from the greater Fall River area asked, “Is the executor of a will responsible for credit card debt if the deceased has no assets?”
Personal injury attorney Steven Sabra answered, no, the executor is not responsible. The minor exception to the rule is if the executor signs to be responsible on some paper or begins to pay the debt when there is no assets could be a problem. Also if there are assets in an estate and the executor disperses all the money before a year from date of death is up then the executor can be personally liable for that particular debt. But in a case where there are no assets in the estate, meaning probate assets such as money or property in the deceased’s name alone, then the executor is not responsible.
Sometimes what happens is there might be a bank account of $15,000 in the deceased’s name alone and there are creditors, like credit card bills and other bills. What is entitled to priority is funeral expenses and expenses of administration, including attorney’s fees. If you have $15,000 only and you have a $7,500 bill for the funeral and everything that goes with the death of a loved one, as well as attorney’s fees and filing fees, that estate is going to be insolvent and there is going to be no money left for creditors.
The executor is not personally responsible to pay bills if there is no assets in your estate.
10 SITUATIONS TO CHECK IF IT IS WORTH USING AN EXECUTOR
Having an executor is not always necessary under certain jurisdictions and circumstances. If you are on the fence about using an executor to deal with the work after someone close to you has passed, here is a list of services an executor provides. These will help you to determine if obtaining one is the right choice for you:
Finding the deceased’s assets. An executor of a will is required to find all of the assets in the will and keep them all safe in the meantime until they are distributed to their beneficiaries named in the will. This can also include trying to decide which assets to sell and which properties to keep.
Deciding if probating the will and testament in court is necessary. Probating a will means that the court is going to process the validity of a will to either approve or deny it. There are many things that can determine whether a will is valid. Sometimes, it will depend upon the laws of the state in which the will was administered in. It can also depend upon the value of certain properties that will be credited in the will.
Contacting creditors in the will. It is the executors job to find the creditors who will be receiving some of the estate, and notify them of what they are supposed to inherit. They are also in charge of making sure these assets are given to the people named specifically by the deceased.
Making sure the will is filed in the proper probate court. This service is actually required by law regardless of whether or not the will needs to be probated.
Wrapping up the deceased’s affairs. This can pertain to many different situations. If the deceased was retired, chances are they might have been collecting Social Security benefits. It is the executor’s job to contact them and notify them of the collector’s death. Other things this can pertain to contacting the deceased’s bank and cancelling their credit cards as well as cancelling their phone or anything else they were being billed for.
Setting up a new bank account for the estate. It is generally required for the executor to keep the estate’s money secure and separate from any individual funds. Setting up a bank account in the name of an estate is recommended. It is the easiest way to pay off debts to creditors.
Continue necessary payments. The money from the estate’s bank account that was made can be used for many different payments, including a mortgage, insurance, funeral expenses, or any other recurring payments that will need to be paid during the administration of the will.
Pay off creditors and debts. Before anyone in a will can receive any monetary inheritance, the creditors and debts of the deceased are required to be paid off in full first. It is the executor’s job to notify the creditors as well to determine how they will proceed in collecting.
Paying final income taxes. There are only two certainties in life, death and taxes. Unfortunately, even while going through the death of a loved one, there are taxes that need to be paid, as well as any creditors. It is up to the executor to make sure that all income taxes of the deceased for the last year he or she lived has been paid off.
Ensure the deceased’s property distribution. Simply put, if there is a residence given away in the will, it is to be given to the named beneficiary. However, if there is a property that was not named in the will with a rightful inheritor, then the ownership of the unwilled property will be decided by an administrator using their best judgement abiding to the laws of the state.
It is important to understand that an executor can only be used if the person who has died had left behind a will. Otherwise, if the deceased did not write out a will, much like if a property is not given a beneficiary, an administrator will be in charge of the properties and will determine the best way to pass intestate succession to the persons deemed the rightful beneficiaries
Sabra and Aspden have won over $100 million in verdicts and settlements for personal injury and wrongful death cases. We serve the greater Fall River, Somerset, New Bedford, Assonet, and Swansea areas. We work vigorously to achieve maximum recovery for our clients in Southern New England.