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My husband died without a will, with some debts in his name only, no insurance and no estate.

Marietta, GA |

Our home mortgage is in my name; we pay joint taxes and have one credit card where we are both authorized users. One joint banking account. What do I do about his debts? Should I notify the creditors (1 credit card in his name only; a SWARM of doctors/hospice/hospital bills). Should I notify the credit bureaus? What do I do about the bank?

Attorney Answers 4

  1. I'm sorry about your husband's death. Since you say there is a home mortgage and no estate, I'm assuming that title to your home was either in "joint tenancy" or "tenancy by the entireties" (in California, it could also be in "community property"). Assuming that the home was in joint tenancy or tenancy by the entireties, then it would not be necessary to probate it to transfer it to your name.

    As for "the bank", I assume you are referring to the joint checking account. You can switch that to your name only by showing the bank a certified death certificate.

    As for the creditors, in California you would continue to be liable for certain debts (because of the way community property works) if they were related to the "necessaries of life". If not, then you would not be liable for them unless you were also a borrower (for example, any credit cards in both of your names).

    If your husband has no other assets, then probate probably is not required. To be sure, you should check with a competent Georgia probate lawyer. If you cannot find one in the Avvo lawyer directory, you can probably find one through the County Bar Association's Lawyer Referral Service (if your county bar does not have a LRS, perhaps your state bar does). You might also check out for a local lawyer. Most probate lawyers offer a free or low cost initial consultation. That might be all you need to give yourself some peace of mind.

    The information you obtain at this site is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. You should consult an attorney for individual advice regarding your own situation.

  2. Well, if your husband died w/o a will, then he died intestate & you need a lawyer to file an intestacy action with the probate court. An administrator would be named by the court. The debt is joint debt for which you are also legally responsible. The debt would be paid out his estate. The administrator of his estate would handle all financial matters, including with the bank. Be sure to consult /w a lawyer in your area.

  3. You did not mention whose name the home is in. If it is joint, then the house is now yours. The joint banking account is now yours. The credit account in which you are both authorized users has an "account owner". You need to call the credit card company and find out who the account owner is. If there are no other assets, you will not have to file to administer the estate. You also are not responsible for your husband's bills. You should notify all creditors that your husband has passed away. You might wish to include a death certificate with the letter. If you have decided that there are no assets that need to pass through probate, namely bank accounts, real estate, automobiles then tell the creditors that there are no assets in the estate and that you do not plan to open an estate. Keep a copy of the last bill you get from each creditor. After you have notified each creditor that your husband is deceased, do not accept his mail any longer. If you get another bill from the creditors, simply mark on the envelope that the addressee is deceased and return the envelope, unopened, in the mail.

  4. I wanted to take this opportunity to post, simply to concur with Mr. Hughes and to let you know that his answer is on point and a good one. In many instances in Georgia, if there is more debt than assets, you don't have to administer or probate an estate.

    The foregoing is general information only, not specific legal advice. No attorney/client relation has been created or should be implied.

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