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What bills must surviving family members pay after a death?

There is often a great deal of confusion as to what financial obligations pass on to family members when a person dies. In fact, debt settlement is often an important addition to many estate planning portfolios.

It is clear that most major bills, like medical bills and secured debt, will likely be extracted from the deceased person's estate after they have passed away. But many have heard horror stories of family members being harassed by creditors for months after a loved one's passing.

One law in Florida, called the homestead law, prevents creditors from taking possession of a home that was listed under the deceased person's name alone, provided that it was their permanent address. Creditors cannot force loved ones to liquidate a home under the homestead law.

Another area in which loved ones are protected is credit card debt. As long as the deceased person's name is the only one on credit card accounts, surviving family members have no legal obligation to repay any debt after the primary account holder dies. This, of course, will not stop credit card companies from attempting to collect the debt from family members anyway. But remember that you do have some legal recourse if you feel that a credit card company or collection agency is harassing you or threatening you in order to secure the debt.

Debt that cannot be ignored includes a mortgage and any secured debt, such as that on a car or boat. While creditors cannot come after surviving family to secure any financial reward, they can repossess property if it is not paid for as part of an estate administration plan.

Source: wpbf.com, "What Happens To Your Bills After You Die?" Oct. 19, 2011

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