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Debts after death: What happens?

When a married person in Florida dies, his or her spouse may wonder what happens to the debts that the deceased person left behind. The way in which the debts will be treated will depend on several things.

The surviving spouses will generally not be liable to pay their deceased spouses' debts. However, they will need to pay debts for which they jointly signed. When the deceased person's estate is opened, the creditors may seek payment of the monies that they are owed. This means that the surviving spouses may indirectly have to pay the debts because they will come out of the decedents' estates.

The executors of the estates are responsible for paying the debts that are owed from the proceeds of the estates. Debts are prioritized. The funeral and burial expenses are normally given first priority and so are paid first. Usually, the medical bills that remain from providing care to the decedents prior to their deaths will be paid next. The executors must also file the final tax returns for the decedents and pay the taxes that are owed. When the estates are large, some courts may want the executors to wait before paying the other bills until the tax agencies give their approval.

People who want to try to preserve assets from their estates for their families might want to meet with estate planning lawyers. This may help their clients to ensure that they are able to pass a greater portion of their estates to their intended beneficiaries rather than to the payment of creditors or state and federal tax agencies.

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