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Who is Responsible for Paying a Deceased Person's Bills?

Probate vs. Non Probate Assets

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When a person dies, one of the biggest concerns of the surviving family members will become what bills they'll have to pay and in what amounts. Start by reading Who Pays Off a Deceased Person's Debts?

In addition, you'll need to consider the following depending on the type of assets the decedent owned:

  1. Will it be necessary to probate any of the decedent's assets? If so, then refer to How a Deceased Person's Bills Are Handled Before and During Probate.


  2. What happens to jointly owned assets? If any of the decedent's assets were jointly titled with rights of survivorship or as tenants by the entirety, then these assets will pass directly to the surviving owners or surviving spouse by operation of law and outside of probate. But what impact will this have on the payment of the deceased owner's bills? Find out by reading What Happens to a Joint Account When an Owner Dies?


  3. What if the account is titled as tenants in common and one of the account owners dies? Start by reading Do the Other Owners Have to Pay Off the Final Bills of a Deceased Tenant in Common? Aside from this, consider the following:

  4. What happens to life insurance? If the decedent owned life insurance and it passes to a surviving beneficiary, then refer to What Happens to Life Insurance When the Insured Dies? and Does Life Insurance Have to Be Used to Pay a Deceased Person's Bills?

    If all of the beneficiaries named by the decedent have predeceased the decedent, then one of two things can happen:

  5. What happens to a payable on death account? If the decedent owned a payable on death account, transfer on death account, "in trust for" account, or Totten Trust and one or more of the designated beneficiaries survive the decedent, then refer to What Happens to a Payable on Death Account When the Owner Dies?


  6. If all of the beneficiaries named by the decedent have predeceased the decedent, then the account proceeds will become assets of the decedent's probate estate. If this is the case, refer to How a Deceased Person's Bills Are Handled Before and During Probate.

  7. What happens to IRAs and 401(k)s? If the decedent held assets in a qualified retirement plan, including an IRA or 401(k), and the account passes to the owner's surviving spouse, then refer to What Happens to a Retirement Account When the Owner Dies - Tax Consequences if You're a Surviving Spouse to learn about the tax consequences of inheriting the account.

    If the decedent held assets in an IRA or 401(k) and the account passes to someone other than the owner's surviving spouse, then refer to What Happens to a Retirement Account When the Owner Dies - Tax Consequences if You're Not a Surviving Spouse to learn about the tax consequences of inheriting the account.

    With regard to the payment of the IRA or 401(k) account owner's bills, refer to Does an IRA or 401(k) Have to Be Used to Pay a Deceased Person's Bills?

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