After our parents died, we were very surprised to learn that they had a great deal of credit card debt. Can the credit card companies force the estate to pay the debt?
What many people don’t realize is that when a person dies, his or her debts do not just go away. Generally, assets in a person’s estate must first be used to pay the decedent’s debts and expenses of administration. North Carolina law provides specific procedures for notifying creditors, for paying them, and for which assets should be used. In some situations, if there are more debts than available assets, the heirs may not inherit anything. So, if a decedent had credit card debt, it is the duty of the personal representative (e.g., the executor or the administrator) of the estate to use the assets of the estate to pay the debt. If the personal representative has access to sufficient assets to pay the creditors, but fails to do so, the personal representative may be personally liable to the creditor.
Michael J. Kemmy
Board Certified Specialist in Elder Law