My husband passed away recently after a long illness. Our home (paid) and cars are in both our names, and I am his named beneficiary of his life insurance policy and an IRA account. If I understand things correctly, there is no estate then? I am also named executor in his will. What are my legal obligations as executor toward his credit card debt and medical bills (in his name only). The life insurance and IRA together are probably not enough to pay these bills (many medical bills have not even been submitted to his insurance yet, so I am guessing.) Do I call the credit card company, hospital, labs, doctors, etc. and tell them he is deceased? Will they suspend late fees and not turn the accounts over to collections while I sort things out?
You probably should meet with a probate attorney to go over things. From your summary, it sounds like there would be no estate. In most states, creditors have the right to pursue the "estate" for the decedent's debt. That would mean that the creditors in your case are out of luck, unless you decide to voluntarily pay them. Because I am a Michigan attorney and because this is a serious issue, you should consult with a probate attorney to make sure you do the right thing. The other potential benefit is that under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, once you inform a creditor that you are represented by an attorney, they legally cannot contact you regarding the debt, AT ALL. It they do, they are subject to very steep damages. This, in and of itself, can be well worth the visit to the attorney. Most attorneys will do this for a nominal charge, if they charge you at all.
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If the credit card bills are unsecured and not tied to a HELOC, and you have not mutally applied or guaranteed them, and you were not an authorized user, then you will be able to let those go.
But under Indiana case law, there is a "doctrine of necessaries" that can be used to compel a spouse to pay his or her spouse's medical bills. However, for a deceased the way to do it requires a creditor opening an estate, which is very very rare.
If you need to avoid these debts, then you should hire a lawyer, let him know the problem, and have him write the creditors of your husband who are still bothering you and repudiate the debts and tell them to leave you alone. a good estates lawyer will know exactly how to say this correctly.
No legal representation exists by virtue of this answer. Consult your attorney. Licensed to practice law in Indiana and Illinois. Circular 230 Disclosure: any U.S. tax advice contained in this communication is not intended or written to be used, and cannot be used, for the purpose of (i) avoiding penalties under the Internal Revenue Code, or (ii) promoting, marketing or recommending to another party any matters addressed herein.
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