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Assets do not always have to pay debts in probate

The loss of a loved one may come with more than one type of grief. Just as families are beginning to deal with a death in the family, aspects of their unresolved financial assets may come to the surface from creditors, lenders and business partners.

It is important to remember while going through the probate process that children, widows and other survivors of a decedent with an estate are rarely liable for the person's debts. Although these obligations do not disappear, they cannot be transferred to a survivor unless that person was a co-signatory to assets, business deals or mortgages.

Most assets that are part of a probate process are also protected from being used to pay the decedent's debts. Life insurance policies, retirement assets and payable-on-death bank accounts go to beneficiaries named in wills, not the estate itself.

An attorney may be a valuable ally to the heirs of estate planners who died in debt. A lawyer can communicate with creditors and observe probate laws of Connecticut and other jurisdictions to resolve disagreements legally. An attorney may also find ways to avoid the probate process, especially if a person dies with no assets at all.

Notes, bank records or any other information about a decedent's financial status can help make the case in probate court for inheritors to retain what they were left in a will. Legal representation can also be a bulwark against the pressure of creditors, especially if they have detailed information on how debts were accrued and managed during a person's lifetime.

Source: CT Post, "When your parents die broke," Liz Weston, March 05, 2018

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