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Does every estate in Pennsylvania have to go through probate at time of death, and is a spouse responsible to pay unpaid bills?

Scottdale, PA |

A wife dies, her husband does not have their home in his name. He collects insurance and pension money. A second mortgage is on the house. He walks away and buys a new home as a first time buyer. Is he responsible to pay off the home he lived in for 15 years, and doesn't a death notice need to be published to the public so creditors are notified before he spends his wife's estate monies?

Attorney Answers 1

  1. Whether or not an estate needs to be opened depends on whether or not there are assets to be probated. If the assets pass by way of joint ownership or beneficiary designation, then probate is not required. Your summary states that the house was in the wife's name alone. Therefore, it would normally need to be probated.

    Since it sounds like there is not sufficient equity to justify keeping the house, the mortgage bank will foreclose it, if payments are not made. They would have the right to pursue the estate, as well, if the sales price on the home is insufficient to satisfy the debt. If there is no estate, then typically, the creditor has little recourse.

    The husband would not be required to pay for the home. Publication of a creditor's notice may limit the creditors' rights to make claims after a certain time period.

    I am a little confused because you reference "estate monies." If the money is a part of the estate, then it is subject to creditor claims. If the assets pass outside of probate, then there is generally no need to notify creditors.

    James Frederick