Is an heir responsible for debts of an estate?

My daughter’s father died less than a month ago; he remarried to a Polish woman. She told us that there is no Will and if she adds my daughter to the estate, my daughter will owe thousands of dollars She is only daughter 21 years old and I don’t know what to advise her.

Asked on April 18, 2015 under Estate Planning, Florida


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

Answered 5 years ago | Contributor

Heirs (or beneficiaries) are not liable for the debts of an estate. All debts are paid from estate assets (e.g. money in back accounts, the sale of a car, etc). To the extent that there is not enough money pay all creditors, the debts are extinguished as a matter of law (i.e. the creditors don't get all of what is owed to them).

To the extent all creditors are paid in full, then any remaining assets are distributed to the heirs. Since you appear not to know what your ex-husband did or did not leave in his estate, you should contact the probate court in which his estate is being handled to find out more, or you could contact a local probate lawyer for advice.

Christine Socrates / Christine Sabio Socrates, Atty at Law

Answered 5 years ago | Contributor

That is untrue, the probate estate is responsible for paying his debts not the beneficiaries.  They do not have personal responsibility for his debts. If the debts exceed the assets of the estate, it is an insolvent estate and could file as such.  

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.