If someone dies without a Will, who pays their debts?

My brother passed away without a Will. Over the past 2 years he has been receiving collection letters asking him to repay. His estate does have enough funds to cover most of these debts. Are we able to negotiate with these collections agencies? Does his death allow him to forgo these debts. They are credit cards and past medical bills. He is not married and has no children.

Asked on December 9, 2011 under Estate Planning, Montana


M.D., Member, California and New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 8 years ago | Contributor

As a general rule, brothers and/or sister's do not inherit their siblings's debt. That is, unless they specifically assumed specific liability such debt (e.g. they were a co-signer on a loan). 

That having been said, the deceased siblings estate does bear this responsibility. Consequently, to the extent there are assets in the estate, creditors will need to be paid before any distribution is made to ant beneficiaries/heirs. If there are not enough assets to cover outstanding debts, then those debts are written off by the creditors.

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